All-natural Teeth Whitening

All-Natural Teeth whitening methods: 

BY DR. BURHENNE

Teeth stains and yellowing happen to everyone. Whether it’s due to genetics, damage, or surface stains from foods and beverages. The reality is that over time, staining occurs. Meanwhile, aging can cause yellowing, even if your dental hygiene routine has been perfect.

And while it is possible to whiten teeth and eliminate some of this discoloration, it’s important to remember that many teeth whitening methods can cause damage to the teeth.

Some all-natural methods are better than conventional whitening treatments that can potentially damage the gums. But even natural teeth whitening methods can cause damage to the teeth, eroding the enamel and potentially causing more damage—and staining—in the future.

Before we discuss teeth whitening methods let’s examine how teeth become discolored in the first place.

What really causes dental stains and yellow teeth?

The first thing to understand is that there are two parts to a tooth—the non-living tooth (enamel) and the inner, living part of the tooth (dentin). Here are several factors that can impact either the enamel or the dentin of the tooth, causing varying degrees of staining of yellowing.

Age: Dentin naturally yellows as it ages, and because there aren’t currently any ways to whiten the inner part of the tooth, teeth appear more yellow as they get older. This is because the outer, enamel of the tooth acts like a clear window that reflects the color of the inner dentin.

Grinding: Grinding can prematurely age the teeth, leading to early yellowing, among other issues. When you grind your teeth, the force causes premature aging and shrinking of the dentin—which, again, shows up as yellowing.

Dental trauma: Like grinding, trauma from falls or accidents can cause damage to the tooth that results in accelerated aging and yellowing.

Poor diet: Not having adequate nutrition can also be a cause of premature tooth aging, as all parts of the body—including the teeth—suffer from a lack of the vitamins and nutrients that can support optimal health and prevent aging. And, of course, aging teeth appear more yellow.

Foods and drinks: Unlike dentin that becomes discolored from age and trauma, enamel is stained from the foods and drinks we consume. Highly pigmented substances like wine, tea, coffee, and tobacco, cause the most damage. For these types of stains, teeth whitening products—and even a solid cleaning at the dentist’s office—can reverse some of these stains and lighten up the enamel of teeth.

The problem with most teeth whitening methods

Unfortunately, popular teeth whitening procedures, like laser or halogen whitening, are not good for your teeth. And even teeth whitening strips can have consequences if not used properly.

The problem with over-the-counter teeth whitening kits is that whitening strips struggle to reach every part of the tooth, which can lead to uneven whitening. Additionally, it’s difficult to keep the whitening solution from touching the gums, which can cause tissue irritation.

Conversely, you may be interested in natural teeth whitening, and you may have heard about using apple cider vinegar, strawberries, or baking soda to whiten teeth. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these methods is a result of the acids in the products eating away the top layer of enamel. While that process will reveal whiter enamel underneath, it will also speed up the aging process of your teeth, leading to further yellowing and damage down the road. 

So the question is: Are there natural teeth whitening options that are both safe and effective?

The answer is YES.

Here are some the safest ways to whiten your teeth naturally.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has a long history as a substance used to treat poisoning, with the first patient being treated nearly two centuries ago. That’s because the charcoal adsorbs—or binds with—much of what it touches.

Even though there are now other, more preferred methods for treating poisonings, the binding capabilities of activated charcoal have made it a popular addition in a number of beauty products, including toothpastes and teeth whiteners.

Unlike whitening kits you might find in a store, which use hydrogen peroxide to whiten the dentin beneath the tooth’s enamel, activated charcoal removes surface stains only. This makes it a good option for naturally reversing stains caused by foods, beverages, or tobacco.

To give this product a try, I recommend smearing an activated charcoal paste onto the teeth and letting it sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing and gently brushing away any excess.

My recipe for charcoal toothpaste is safe to use as a regular toothpaste, but it shouldn’t be used daily. You should also keep in mind that other products on the market may be too rough for the teeth, as charcoal can be abrasive.

Activated charcoal toothpaste recipe

I recommend smearing the toothpaste on your teeth (instead of brushing with it) and letting it sit for 5-10 minutes while you go about your morning routine. This way you’ll give the charcoal time to come in contact with, and bind to the stains. Rinse away or gently brush to remove the paste.

Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Servings: 5-7 days for a family of 4 people

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Mix activated charcoal, calcium carbonate, bentonite clay and xylitol in a bowl.
  2. Mix with a fork until well combined.
  3. Mix in water to form a paste.
  4. Add coconut oil and blend with your fork until a smooth paste is formed.
  5. Store in a glass jar or refillable squeeze tube.

Storage & how to use

Keep out only what you’ll use within 5-7 days and store the rest in the fridge.  The Activated Charcoal Toothpaste is made from real food ingredients and therefore doesn’t contain any preservatives.  Keeping it in the fridge will extend its shelf life, but don’t expect it to last more than a month. Use your senses to determine if you need to toss it and create a fresh batch.  Also, the temperature and humidity of where you live (as well as your bathroom, where you store the paste) will determine how long the toothpaste lasts.

Consider discarding used toothpaste in the trash to avoid clogging sink pipes, as the coconut oil can leave a residue over time.

To stay on the safe side, I recommend checking the Relative Dentin Abrasivity of any toothpaste before purchasing.

Turmeric

There aren’t currently any studies that have evaluated turmeric’s effectiveness as a teeth whitener, though there is a lot of anecdotal support suggesting that it effectively removes extrinsic stains.

However, a 2012 study suggested that the curcumin might help fight against gingivitis, and it was a strong contender against mouthwashes when it came to removing plaque, bacteria, and inflammation. All of that is to say, even if turmeric doesn’t whiten your teeth, it may benefit your overall oral health in the meantime.

Typically, turmeric is mixed with coconut oil and applied to teeth to aid in whitening. In this case, it may be that the coconut oil helps to strip away the cavity- and stain-causing biofilm, while turmeric acts an abrasive, furthering the stain removal process. But again, there aren’t currently any studies to verify.

Like turmeric, coconut oil has many oral health benefits, and I’m not concerned about the abrasiveness of the herb, so I think this is a whitening method worth trying.

Whitening toothpaste

You’ve likely seen toothpastes claiming their whitening powers but there’s something important to note here: Whether it’s a natural or conventional toothpaste, there’s really no such thing as a whitening toothpaste.

Toothpastes can’t whiten your teeth—they can only help to clean them.

I recommend making your own toothpaste, since traditional toothpastes include all kinds of questionable ingredients like triclosan, sulfates, and artificial colorings.

Probiotic toothpaste

This recipe is made with cacao nibs, so it’s perfect for anyone with an affinity for chocolate. Cacao are the raw, beanlike seeds from which chocolate (as well as cocoa and cocoa butter) are made. And, as previously mentioned, cacao nibs contain compounds that promote the natural healing of cavities, in addition to providing a decadent, chocolate flavor. The addition of prebiotics and probiotics help to rebalance the oral microbiome, ensuring that new cavities can’t develop. Here’s how to make it:

Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Servings: 5-7 days for a family of 4 people (used twice a day)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, heat coconut oil over low heat until melted, about 1 – 2 minutes.
  2. Add bentonite clay, baking soda, xylitol, FOS, probiotic, cacao, ginger and cinnamon to a food processor or high speed blender and blend for 10-15 seconds until all powders are evenly combined, tapping sides and top of blender so powder will fall to the bottom.
  3. Wait a couple of minutes before opening to allow powders to settle, then pour one tablespoon of coconut oil into the blender. Blend for 10-15 seconds; mixture will be crumbly. Take the small end of a wooden spoon (a chopstick or small spatula will also work) and run it along the inside edge of the blender, making sure to combine all the powder with the oil.
  4. Add the vitamin E and remaining coconut oil, and blend another 10 – 15 seconds. A this point, the mixture will be runny. Again, run the wooden spoon end along the edge of the blender to make sure all the powder is incorporated. Blend again if necessary to create a smooth and creamy texture.
  5. With the blender running, slowly add the water and blend for at least 30 seconds, or until it is thoroughly mixed.
  6. Transfer to a glass container with a plastic lid or a nontoxic refillable squeeze tube.

storage tips & how to use

Dip a clean spoon into the toothpaste and apply to your toothbrush. Store half at room temperature and use toothpaste within 7-10 days. Store the rest in the refrigerator for later use. Alternatively, fill a refillable squeeze tube with your toothpaste and squeeze about a quarter teaspoon onto your toothbrush twice daily for best oral hygiene. Store in your refrigerator for extended freshness.

If you are interested in healing gum disease using a food as medicine approach, here’s a powered by neem leaf variation of the probiotic toothpaste.

Keeping your teeth clean can help erase stains, but if you’re going to use a whitening toothpaste, I recommend this one from Rembrandt. Admittedly, it’s not an all-natural option, but it’s good for polishing. Just don’t use it for long—2-3 weeks, max, or until you get your desired result.

Stain-removing toothbrush

A good toothbrush can be an effective natural teeth whitening method because it can help to remove extrinsic stains from teeth.

I recommend an Oral-B Braun electric toothbrush, but any model from the Oral B 1000 to 7000 will work fine. Use a good stain removing head for the toothbrush like the 3D White Brush head or Cross Action Brush Head, which are more effective at removing biofilm, where extrinsic staining occurs.

Most importantly, however, make sure you’re brushing the right way, because toothbrush bristles can damage your enamel if not used appropriately.

To brush properly, place the brush head over a tooth and wiggle it slightly, allowing the bristles to surround the tooth and work their way in between your teeth. Once you’ve finished, move onto the next tooth. To further ensure that you’re not overbrushing, try brushing with your non-dominant hand.

The best ways to prevent teeth stains

The truth is the best natural teeth whitener is preventing teeth from becoming stained or prematurely yellowing in the first place. There are a few ways you can help keep the enamel of the tooth from getting stained in the first place:

  1. Drink lots of water. Drinking water helps to reduce the amount of contact staining agents get with your teeth even as you’re consuming them. So, for example, drink a glass of water while you’re drinking coffee, and the coffee will have less time to stain the teeth.
  2. Swish with water after meals.As often as possible, swish your mouth out with water after you eat. Much like drinking a glass of water, this can help wash away some of the staining agents that naturally occur in certain healthy foods like berries.
  3. Avoid staining foods and beverages.Wine, tea, coffee, and foods that contain food dye all contribute to dental staining. If your goal is to maintain a whiter smile, avoiding these can be helpful. Or, again, be sure to swish the water after consuming.
  4. Get treatment for bruxism.As mentioned, grinding can lead to premature aging of your teeth, so speak with your dentist about treating this issue to prevent yellowing in the future.
  5. Wear a mouthguard during sports.Like grinding, damage to teeth can also lead to premature aging of the teeth and yellowing. When you’re involved in contact sports, be sure to protect your teeth with a mouthguard.

Conclusion

No matter which whitening method you choose, the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t exchange oral health for cosmetic benefit.

There is no medical reason to whiten teeth. It’s a personal preference, and that’s fine! Just make sure you’re choosing a method that will keep your mouth healthy, and that you keep your expectations to a realistic level.

Aside from the natural solutions mentioned here, preventing staining and premature yellowing is the best way to protect the natural color of your teeth.