In the mid-2000s, Procter & Gamble’s Crest brand commissioned a study to identify tooth whitening’s impact on first impressions. Over half of the respondents believed that whiter teeth led to increased job opportunities, higher salaries, and greater success with relationships.  More than a decade later, our culture’s obsession with white teeth still exists, and in 2020, 37 million Americans used DIY tooth whiteners.  However, concerns about using chemicals and problems with tooth sensitivity have led many people to consider natural tooth whitening alternatives. But is natural tooth whitening effective, and is it actually safe for your teeth?
Misconceptions About Tooth Whitening
Substances like coffee, red wine, and tobacco can stain teeth, so it’s logical to think that scrubbing off the stains will reveal a whiter color. But the best way to get and maintain white teeth is to protect the enamel and avoid abrasive products. Over time – and as we continue to brush our teeth – the enamel layer gets thinner, and the yellowish layer below the enamel begins to show through.
Popular Natural Tooth Whitening Methods
Natural tooth whitening ingredients are typically common household items or fresh ingredients that consumers view as healthy. Some ingredients may seem unusual. But since they come from natural sources – and get a lot of attention on blogs and social media accounts devoted to healthy living – people are more willing to try them. While it’s reasonable to assume that natural products are safer than chemicals like peroxide, natural tooth whitening could actually damage the enamel layer.
Scrubs to Whiten Teeth
Not too long ago, activated charcoal was the latest trend for teeth whitening. Many people, including influencers and popular figures, used and demonstrated this scrubbing method. It turned many people on to the procedure. An alternative (and cleaner-looking approach) is to make a paste scrub from baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.
Abrasive scrubs may bring some luster back to your dingy bathroom tiles, but there’s no evidence that scrubbing your teeth will restore their whiteness. There’s also a risk that too much abrasion can damage the outer enamel layer and expose the yellow dentin layer underneath. Finally, there’s mixed evidence about the safety of placing activated charcoal in your mouth.
Acids and Enzymes
Baking soda is also a key ingredient for pastes combined with citrus fruits, apple cider vinegar, pineapple, and mango. These fruits and kinds of vinegar are either acidic or contain digestive enzymes that are thought to brighten smiles. But when acids are applied directly to teeth, they can wear away the enamel, not only stripping away whiteness but also increasing the likelihood of tooth sensitivity and cavities.
Oil Pulling and Turmeric
If people thought activated charcoal was unusual, a close runner-up for an alternative natural whitening technique is oil pulling. Oil pulling is rooted in ancient Ayurvedic history, which is perhaps why there’s interest in it. Swishing extra-virgin coconut oil, like mouthwash, is said to remove harmful bacteria and plaque, but there’s no evidence that it helps whiten teeth.
Turmeric has also made headlines recently for its health properties, and people have either added it to their oil pulling routine or mixed the powder with their toothpaste. Once again, there are no reliable studies to prove the effectiveness of using turmeric to whiten teeth.
Safer and More Effective Ways to Whiten Your Teeth
The best way to take care of your teeth and protect your enamel is to eat a healthy diet and adhere to a proper dental routine. Despite the warning about fruit acids and enzymes, fruit is perfectly safe to eat as you normally would. Other ways to acquire and maintain a brighter smile include:
- Avoiding or limiting foods and beverages that can stain your teeth
- Eliminating all tobacco products
- Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day
- Using a toothpaste that is labeled with the ADA Seal of Acceptance
- Visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleaning
If You Have Questions About Tooth Whitening Products, Contact Your Dentist
Your dentist is a reliable source of information about tooth whitening methods. Dr. Tehila Cohen is an experienced general and cosmetic dentist. She will be happy to recommend safe at-home tooth whitening products. For faster whitening, schedule professional tooth whitening at Empire Dental Care. Not only do professional products have higher concentrations of active ingredients, but our staff knows how to apply the treatment for optimal safety and best results. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 585-671-1650