If you do a Google search for “teeth whitening at home”, you’ll find lots of enticing headlines, like “6 DIY Ways to Whiten Your Teeth” or “Natural Ways to Whiten Your Teeth at Home,” along with dozens of others. Some of these are even from sources that thousands, if not millions, of people trust and they can quickly go viral. Unfortunately, these sources don’t always do adequate research into the safety and effectiveness of these techniques. We have done the research and we have years of experience in the dental field, so here’s the truth about nine trendy teeth whitening “remedies,” products, and techniques and what they really do to your teeth.
1. Fruit and Baking Soda Paste
This one is quite common. This DIY treatment involves taking an acidic fruit – strawberries or lemons are typically the ones used in this “remedy” – make a mash out of it, and add baking soda. The two mixed together are thought to create this magical fizzy paste that will lift stains from the teeth with ease. Unfortunately, what people don’t realize is that the baking soda doesn’t completely neutralize the acidity of the fruits used, so you are literally brushing your teeth with acid when you try this method of tooth whitening. In fact, by adding the baking soda, not only are you not neutralizing the acidity, but you’re adding an abrasive. By doing this, you’re weakening your enamel and brushing it away; and, unfortunately, once the enamel is gone, it’s gone for good.
Some suggest that apples – which contain malic acid – may be a natural tooth whitener. While this isn’t a problem if you’re just eating an apple on occasion, soaking your teeth in apple juice is a bad idea for the same reasons that the strawberry/lemon and baking soda concoction is bad for your teeth: it’ll wear down your enamel, and the sugars promote tooth decay.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar is extremely acidic, and this includes apple cider vinegar. So, swishing around apple cider vinegar will weaken your enamel and eventually cause it to erode. It may look great for a little while, but if it destroys your teeth in the long run, it’s a pretty dangerous and ineffective technique for teeth whitening.
4. Hydrogen Peroxide
Yes, hydrogen peroxide is a primary ingredient in a lot of ADA-approved teeth whitening products that you’ll find in stores or that your dentist may offer. And it’s true; hydrogen peroxide will get under the enamel and bleach the dentin, where stains really set in. However, swishing pure hydrogen peroxide in your mouth is not the best idea. The concentration of hydrogen peroxide in whitening treatments (both over-the-counter and dentist-provided varieties) is much lower than a bottle of hydrogen peroxide that comes in the characteristic brown bottle. As a result, consistently using strictly hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash could cause moderate to severe tooth sensitivity.
5. Oil Pulling
The idea behind oil pulling is that you swish around a glob of raw coconut oil and it’s supposedly going to absorb the bacteria staining your teeth. The reality is, few studies have actually supported this, and the ADA does not recommend oil pulling due to the lack of evidence. Worse, some people will forgo proven oral care methods like fluoride toothpaste and flossing in favor of oil pulling, which hasn’t been proven to do anything to help your teeth, whitening or otherwise. Thus, it isn’t advisable as a whitening method or general oral health practice.
6. Sea Salt
Sea salt may be great for exfoliating your skin to reveal a healthier layer underneath, but the same idea doesn’t apply to teeth. You’re more likely to be scraping away at your enamel than your stains, and enamel doesn’t grow back.
Lately, bloggers have been raving about the health benefits of turmeric. While it may possibly have antibacterial properties and other health benefits when taken as a dietary supplement or within food, there’s no real support that it will whiten your teeth. In fact, based on its characteristic bright orange pigmentation, some suggest that using a turmeric paste will actually make your teeth more yellow.
8. Dirt Toothbrush Powder
Believe it or not, this is a real thing. Some “toothpastes” are really powders made from clay, baking soda, and other organic materials in order to remove tooth stains. However, these powders have no fluoride and no antibacterial properties, and the method has not been widely studied as a means of whitening your teeth. By replacing fluoride toothpaste with one of these alternatives, you’re more likely to get cavities and there’s no guarantee you’re actually getting whiter teeth.
Charcoal is the latest miracle ingredient to hit the list of health and beauty fads. From tablets absorbing stomach acid to ease an upset tummy to face masks for absorbing oils and dirt for clearer skin, charcoal can be found in a wide range of products. Now, YouTubers and bloggers are suggesting it can whiten your teeth, stating that the charcoal absorbs bacteria, toxins, and stains. Unfortunately, like many of the aforementioned “remedies,” there isn’t much evidence pointing to the validity of this claim, and not much is known about the abrasiveness of charcoal in terms of tooth enamel. It may leave teeth patchy and susceptible to erosion, and charcoal may cause tooth sensitivity.
The Verdict about Teeth Whitening Fads
Stick with ADA-approved methods of whitening your teeth. These have been extensively studied and proven, so you can rest easy knowing that you’re using a safe product that will whiten your teeth without causing damage if used properly. Or, you can check out the professional teeth whitening services at the Acworth Center for Family Dentistry. Call (770) 203-1711 or fill out our short contact form to schedule an appointment today.