Everyone wants a bright, beautiful, healthy-looking smile. And it’s natural to want to use natural approaches to achieving that goal. So many people promise that these at-home teeth whitening or gum bleaching techniques can actually get you the results you’re looking for that it’s easy to believe that they work. What can it hurt to try, right?
Plenty. Many promised at-home whitening techniques are not only not effective, they have the potential to damage your teeth. We wanted to run through some of the more commonly recommended techniques that cause concern.
Recently, charcoal toothpaste has been getting a lot of attention. It’s very popular, which is why we want to address it first. There is no evidence that activated charcoal has the ability to pull stains from teeth. The few clinical trials of whitening with charcoal have been unpersuasive, and it can be dangerous.
Charcoal is potentially abrasive to your teeth. Brushing with it regularly can lead to a loss of tooth enamel, and receding gums. The abrasion might be responsible for the temporary whitening success some people report, but, just as with many other whitening toothpastes, the long-term results won’t be attractive. As the enamel gets worn away, it can allow the yellowish, brownish, or grayish dentin underneath to show through. And once that happens, your teeth can’t be whitened by any means short of covering them with porcelain veneers or crowns.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has gotten popular in many holistic health circles because of its supposed benefits for many aspects of health, including its ability to whiten teeth.
But drinking apple cider vinegar is one of the worst things you can do to your teeth. That’s because vinegar–any kind of vinegar–is a concentrated natural acid, and any acid can badly damage your teeth. As we said when discussing fruit juice, any liquid with a pH less than 5.5 can dissolve your tooth enamel. The pH of apple cider vinegar is about 2.8-3.0. Because the pH scale is logarithmic, this means that apple cider vinegar is 300 times stronger than necessary to dissolve your teeth. This is not something you want to expose your teeth to in any significant quantities on a daily basis.
If you do see short-term whitening benefits, it will be for the same reason that you see it with charcoal toothpaste: eliminating the stained enamel, which will eventually show your dentin.
Strawberry and Baking Soda
Many home remedies skate by at the edge of science. Nobody tests them, so they can pretend to be effective. But one home teeth whitening recipe that actually has been tested is a blend of strawberries and baking soda. In a test of the effectiveness of this recipe, it was shown to damage tooth enamel, but not provide any noticeable whitening.
Combining Over-the-Counter Treatments
The truth is that if you want to use at-home whiteners you bought at the store, that’s fine. They can be effective, and they’re safe, when used properly. Their biggest limitation is that many people aren’t happy with the results they get, so they want to try to improve the results by combining two or more of these treatments.
And that’s where safety goes out the window. These treatments weren’t designed to be used with each other, so if you do, you risk damaging your enamel. As with many of these problematic treatments, the result is a loss of tooth enamel, which ultimately makes your teeth looking white.
Talk to Us before Trying Anything
It’s always best to check with a dentist before trying any teeth whitening solution, whether it’s a DIY formula or an over-the-counter formula. If nothing else, it lets us tell you if your teeth will even respond to whitening at all. And it lets us monitor you for any potential problems that may come up.