Does ‘Natural’ Teeth Whitening Work?

Smile Care   |  April 30, 2019

A large-scale study asked people what they would most like to improve about their smile; most participants responded they would like whiter teeth. This is not a surprise, since whiter teeth look healthier and give a brilliance to your smile! Many people like to explore some "natural home remedies" to try teeth whitening at home. The internet is full of do-it-yourself teeth whitening tips and fads, and people are tempted to try them because they think it might be cheaper, easier or even safer.

Many of these tips and products promote themselves as "natural"; and we assume that "if it is natural, it must be safe". Unfortunately, many of these remedies and fads are completely ineffective, and some are even very harmful to your smile and dental health. Here are a few popular DIY teeth whitening tips, and the truth behind their effectiveness.

Charcoal Toothpaste

One teeth cleaning/whitening fad that is gaining popularity in India is Charcoal toothpaste. Many companies include charcoal in their products and websites recommend brushing teeth with charcoal powder, claiming that charcoal helps whiten teeth and improves oral health. However, the American Dental Association has studied the effects of charcoal and strongly advises against the use of any charcoal toothpaste. According to the ADA, there is no scientific evidence that charcoal toothpaste is beneficial in any way, or even safe for your body. Prolonged use of charcoal can wear down the white enamel layer on your teeth and actually make them more yellow. Charcoal can even become embedded in the gums, causing an unsightly bluish tint that is extremely difficult to remove.

Baking Soda and hydrogen peroxide paste

The claim that a brushing with baking soda will shine your teeth is a myth.  Products that mix baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can actually be too abrasive on your teeth. The enamel of your teeth - which is what you are looking to whiten - can be eroded away by using harsh and abrasive chemicals. Remember that enamel does not regenerate. So destroying this top layer of your teeth will not only lead to a more yellow smile, it can cause serious dental problems including teeth sensitivity and decay.

Lemon juice or vinegar

When the online advice for at-home teeth whitening sounds like the same formula used for whitening floors, you need to pause and reconsider. Lemon juice and vinegars might be a great natural way to whiten your marble or ceramic floors. But they are absolutely NOT the solution to whiten your teeth! Juices and vinegars contain acids which are corrosive on your teeth. Prolonged contact with teeth can cause these acids to wear away the enamel, and lose calcium — which gives teeth some of their off-white color. Once calcium is lost, it’s irreplaceable. This can not only lead to unsightly discolouration of your teeth but also serious issues like painful teeth sensitivity and cavities.

Oil pulling and turmeric

There are ongoing scientific studies on health benefits of turmeric. But white teeth is not one of them! A recent teeth whitening home remedy fad is "oil pulling''. It involves swishing or 'pulling' oils, like coconut oil, in your mouth for 5-20 minutes to clean and whiten teeth. According to the American Dental Association, while oils and spices may not cause serious harm to your teeth, there is no scientific evidence that they help whiten your smile.

Want to whiten your teeth naturally?

The best ways to maintain healthy, white teeth naturally is to follow good dental habits, such as:

  • Brush your teeth properly, for at least 2 minutes, twice a day
  • Use a whitening toothpaste with the 'ADA Seal of Acceptance'
  • Use a floss or electric toothbrush to clean between your teeth
  • Limit foods that stain your teeth, like coffee, tea and red wine
  • Avoid smoking and using tobacco
  • Go for regular dental check-ups and cleaning

Teeth whitening is not a one-solution-for-all treatment. Depending on your condition and needs, some methods, be it do-it-yourself or in the clinic, may be better for your teeth than others. If you would like to try an at-home teeth whitening product, check with your dentist first to see if it is safe and effective for you.

At Skin 'n Smiles, we offer a range of in-clinic and at-home teeth whitening treatments, including self-use teeth whitening kits by Philips Zoom. If you have questions, concerns or doubts our Smile Care team lead by Dr. Latika Dhawan is available to answer your questions. Just drop by the Clinic or connect with us on the Skin 'n Smiles app.