Contemporary Dentistry

Home Remedies for Teeth Whitening: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

These days, we’re all concerned about whitening our teeth. After all, stained teeth can make us look old or unhealthy, and there are so many good things in life that stain our teeth (for a random sample: chocolate, coffee, red wine, dark beer, and tea, even green tea!). Although teeth whitening at the dentist’s office has been proven to be safe and effective, many people are looking for ways to whiten their teeth conveniently at home. Beware, though, there are many at-home whitening methods that can actually be damaging to your teeth.

Coconut oil and fresh coconut

The Good

Fortunately, there are several at-home whitening methods that may be good for you. Whether they actually work for whitening or not, they have other benefits that may be worth it.

Oil Pulling: swishing your teeth with coconut oil for 20 minutes may not sound like your idea of a party, but there is some good evidence that it might help with teeth whitening, and whether it does or not, it may also be good for protecting against tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. It’s hard to know whether the coconut oil has anything to do with it or if just swishing your mouth with a liquid for 20 minutes gives all the benefits (sesame oil has shown promise in studies, whereas coconut oil hasn’t really been tested scientifically), but, that said, it likely won’t hurt.

Peroxide Rinse: Another option for whitening that seems to work and is relatively safe is rinsing with peroxide after brushing. Take the bottle of peroxide you have for cuts (make sure it’s a 3% solution) and mix it 50:50 with water. Then swish it around in your mouth for a while. This is basically the same stuff we use for whitening in our office, only much, much weaker, so it’s safe for your gums. The results may be slow to develop, but they’re real, and they last.

The Bad

On the other hand, there are many at-home whitening solutions that can actually be destructive to your teeth. Avoid these at all costs, and if you know anyone who does them, tell them to stop.

Strawberries and Baking Soda: Online recipes recommend brushing with this homemade toothpaste three times a day for ten days. Unfortunately, not only did studies show that this didn’t work–it also damages your teeth. The acid in the strawberries overpowers the baking soda and contributes to erosion of your tooth enamel.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Another dangerous remedy for at-home whitening is rinsing with apple cider vinegar. You know what vinegar is? It’s acid. In fact, cider vinegar has a pH of about 3, comparable to many white wines and sodas. Anything with a pH of 5 or less will erode your tooth enamel. Here’s the thing: it might actually work to whiten your teeth. That’s because the acid is dissolving organic stain molecules as well as your tooth enamel. But when your teeth get opened up by acid attack, they are more vulnerable to staining. And after a little while, the enamel is so thin that the dentin underneath shows through, which makes your teeth look yellow.

The Ugly

And then there are some teeth whitening techniques that probably don’t have any effect at all, but can be really messy.

Activated Charcoal: Activated charcoal is becoming more popular as a teeth whitening technique lately. The theory is this: the charcoal includes tiny voids that can trap organic molecules (it’s how the stuff neutralizes poisons), so it could trap organic molecules that are staining your teeth. However, it doesn’t seem to work.

Activated charcoal comes as a powder you then have to mix with water to create a paste, then, after you brush with it, you have to rinse your teeth thoroughly to get out all the unattractive black particles.

Charcoal is pretty soft, so it won’t damage your tooth enamel. The particles might irritate your gums, but if you brush with it carefully, you likely won’t have any harm, just the nuisance of it.

Beautiful Teeth Whitening

However, if you’re looking for teeth whitening that works, then we can help. We even offer porcelain veneers, which can whiten teeth that don’t respond to chemical whitening methods.

To learn how we can give you a beautiful smile in Rochester, NY, please call (585) 244-3337 for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at Contemporary Dentistry.