Traditional whitening practices have proven to be quite harmful to the longevity of our teeth.
Dental specialist Linda Greenwall has thoroughly investigated the harmful use of teeth whitening treatments, especially ones that include chlorine dioxide, and argues “these chlorine dioxide treatments are advertised as safe for teeth. It is certainly not the case.”
It remains difficult for people to find an effective and safe alternative to traditional teeth whitening practices — practices that cause serious and irreversible damage to the enamel of our teeth, which is what protects them to begin with. Greenwall explains that chlorine dioxide whitening treatments can cause serious damage, including: tooth etching, loss of tooth lustre, discolouration, stain absorption (due to loss of protective enamel), teeth feeling rough, and increased sensitivity (sometimes permanent).
Other risks include:
- Tooth fracture
- Gum irritation
- Enamel loss
If you are serious about getting whiter teeth safely, you need to first determine what is causing their discolouration to begin with. Coffee, tea, red wine, and cigarettes are all major culprits here, so start by cutting down or completely eliminating these four things.
These are the risks you face when choosing to go the conventional route. Fortunately, safer and more holistic alternatives are available.
1. Oil Pulling
This is a traditional Aryurvedic practice used to help detoxify and cleanse the body. Along with helping to whiten teeth, it also reduces tooth decay and gingivitis. Sesame oil is the traditional choice, but to see the best results, use coconut oil, which contains monolaurin, a very effective antimicrobial against the main bug implicated with tooth decay, strep mutans.
Be sure to use a high quality oil. We often use this coconut oil due to its single origin quality. Start by taking a tablespoon of oil and swishing it in your mouth for 20 minutes. Move it through your teeth and the front and back of your mouth. Do not swallow! The longer it’s been in your mouth the more contaminated it will become, as it is literally pulling bacteria, fungi, and viruses into your mouth from your whole body. When you are done, spit it out (and brush your teeth if you’d like).
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda has a really low Relative Dentin Abrasivity, or RDA, score. The scale goes from 0 (no abrasivity) to 269 (high abrasivity), with baking soda ranking in at just 7.
How to use:
1. Take a pinch of baking soda and put it into a small glass or bowl.
2. Add a small amount of purified water (ideally not tap water) to the bowl and mix it into the baking soda. The solution should be slightly runny, as you don’t want too many of the granules present. Dip your toothbrush in to get some of the solution on the brush.
3. Brush your teeth, starting with your molars and then moving to the facings and backs of your teeth.
4. Optional: Once done, you can add some more water to the glass or bowl and swish it around your mouth. This will help keep your mouth alkaline.
5. Rinse out your mouth with purified water as you normally would after brushing.
Other people place baking soda directly on their toothbrush and begin with the front teeth. When the solution is mixed with saliva, it becomes liquid.
White kaolin clay has a low abrasivity score and is effective as both a polish and stain remover. It is also high in calcium, silica, zinc, and magnesium, and safe for people with tooth sensitivity.
How to use:
Apply it directly onto your toothbrush, starting with your front teeth and then, as it mixes with your saliva, moving on to the rest of the mouth.
You can also combine this with baking soda.
4. Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body but is itself highly absorbent, allowing it to easily remove toxins without harming the body. It is fantastic for people who have had a bout of food poising or have accidentally ingested something toxic. If you take this within 30 minutes of ingestion you should see results, but do not take it with other vitamins or supplements, as it will absorb those as well.
Be aware that while it can remove stains from teeth, it does stain clothes, tiles, counters, etc. It can also cause constipation and block mineral absorption, and should not be mixed with dairy. These are warnings in the case that you do ingest it.
How to use:
Wet your toothbrush and dip it into the charcoal. Put the charcoal covered toothbrush in the mouth (quickly to protect your sink) and brush in small, gentle circles for two minutes. Spit carefully and rinse really well. You can also mix the charcoal with water and swish with it for two minutes.
You can also combine this with oil pulling.
5. Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide
It’s important to dilute peroxide to between 1% and 1.5% concentration at the very most. Anything higher will damage your teeth, even a mere 3%.
Our body produces hydrogen peroxide primarily in the lungs, gut, and thyroid gland, and the presence of hydrogen peroxide calls the immune system to an injury. This may explain how diluted hydrogen peroxide aids someone who is fighting gum disease.
How to use:
Again, use a very low concentration and swish around the teeth for three to five minutes.
Just like activated charcoal, you need to be careful about where your turmeric lands! It will stain everything, including your toothbrush, so you may even need to have a designated turmeric brush. But we promise — it won’t stain your teeth!
Turmeric has extensive medicinal properties, including as a digestive aid and an anti-inflammatory. It has even been said to help prevent certain types of cancers.
How to use:
Wet your toothbrush and then dip it in 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder. Brush teeth as normal, but instead of rinsing when you’re done, allow the turmeric to sit on your teeth for three to five minutes. Follow this with a regular brushing to get rid of any excess yellow buildup.
You can also try this combo: 2 parts turmeric powder to 1 part coconut oil and 1 part baking soda. Mix together to form a paste, and keep in a cool place (coconut oil is liquid at around 74-76 degrees).
Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, which helps to make your teeth whiter. Use them to whiten teeth by crushing a few berries and then applying them to your teeth. Let it sit for about three to five minutes and then rinse out your mouth well.
Lemon has a solid bleaching power. Many use it to lighten their hair, but it can be used on your teeth as well. Squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl and add some sea salt to it. Grind it down to produce a soft paste. Apply that to your teeth and let sit for three to five minutes. Rinse well. It’s important to rinse this thoroughly, as you don’t want to let it sit over long periods of time and erode your enamel.
9. Banana Peel
This one is controversial and I personally wouldn’t say this should be your go-to option. Some health professionals say it works, while others say it doesn’t. In the end, the gritty surface, which is rich in magnesium and potassium, may polish teeth and help remove some stains on the enamel, but results vary widely. For this method, simply rub your teeth with the inside of a ripe banana peel for two to five minutes and rinse when finished. Do this twice daily.
Disadvantages of Whitestrips and Bleaching
There are a number of whitening options one can explore via dentists, whitening professionals, or the drugstore. These include bleaching trays, professional bleaching treatments, and products like Whitestrips. There is no doubt that these products do work, but there are reported disadvantages to these options that don’t exist with the above natural methods.
Often the treatments above utilize harsh ingredients that can have powerful effects on gums and teeth, creating prolonged sensitivity even after one use. For example, studies suggest that between one-third and one-half of all people who use Whitestrips will notice some degree of gum tissue irritation.  If you’ve tried these products in the past, you may have seen great results and had no irritation, but if you did experience irritation, try the options above for a more natural and sustainable approach.
Lifestyle and Diet Are Important
When using natural healing methods, it’s essential to remember that change does not happen overnight. If you want to get your teeth looking whiter naturally, you need to first understand that this will take time. Give yourself at least a month of combining the practices listed above with limiting discolouration factors (coffee, tea, red wine, smoking) and judge from there if this is working for you.
We live in an age that is almost ruled by coffee, which happens to be one of the biggest contributors to stained and yellow teeth. While step number one for whiter teeth would be to limit coffee intake, that may not be a desired option for some of us, so the above list of natural teeth whitening options should at least help mitigate the damage of coffee consumption.
Dental hygiene is important. It can be a contributing factor to many diseases in other areas of the body if not properly taken care of. One of the biggest ways we can damage our teeth is through acidic foods and drinks. In fact, a lot of times, yellow teeth are the result of an acidic diet, which wears at teeth enamel if teeth are not properly taken care of.
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