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How to Whiten Teeth Naturally

Fact Checked

checking white teeth in the mirror

Story at-a-glance -

  • It’s best to use natural methods to whiten teeth at home. The top two home remedies I recommend are baking soda and coconut oil
  • Many people turn to modern solutions like teeth whitening strips or kits to bring back their pearly whites. But be careful: Studies found that these whitening kits can damage your teeth
  • Read this article to find out how to whiten your teeth using safe and cost-effective solutions — some of which may be found in your home

Poor dental habits, plaque buildup, food stains and even the natural aging process1 can all cause your teeth to develop an unpleasant yellow color. For many, this can be a source of embarrassment and can lead to loss of confidence. The good news is there are natural remedies that could help bring back your teeth's healthy appearance.

Read this article to find out how to whiten your teeth using safe and cost-effective solutions — some of which may be found in your home.

Why Do Your Teeth Turn Yellow?

Before we go into the remedies, here are a few reasons why your teeth changes color, as noted by WebMD:2

  • Lack of proper dental hygiene — If you don't brush, floss and gargle mouthwash regularly, plaque and other substances can build up and stain your teeth an unpleasant yellow color.
  • Ingesting foods and drinks that can cause staining — These include coffee, tea, potatoes and apples.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco. 
  • Dental diseases — Diseases that impact the enamel (the teeth's hard surface) and dentin (the material beneath the enamel) may cause discoloration.
  • Medications and conventional treatments — Children 8 years old and under who are given doxycycline and tetracycline antibiotics may have tooth discoloration as a side effect, as their teeth are still in the development stage. Undergoing head and neck chemotherapy and radiation can lead to your teeth turning yellow, too.
  • Aging — Your enamel's outer layer becomes worn out as you age, which then allows your dentin's natural yellow color to become more apparent.

Many people turn to modern solutions like teeth whitening strips or kits to bring back their pearly whites. But be careful: Studies found that these whitening kits can damage your teeth.3,4

Hence, it's best to turn to natural methods to whiten teeth at home. The top two home remedies I recommend are baking soda and coconut oil, which I'll discuss in detail below. I've also provided a number of other natural solutions you can try.

How to Whiten Teeth Naturally Using Baking Soda

Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is a very fine, crystalline white powder that is composed of sodium and bicarbonate ions.5 This substance is an alkaline — when you blend it with an acid, it can change its pH level.6

Several studies support the claims that baking soda is safe for tooth whitening. In an analysis published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers noted that manual toothbrushing with a paste or powder containing this substance may effectively remove stains from teeth. The researchers reported:7

"Baking soda is a desirable abrasive for stain-removal and tooth-whitening dentifrices. Its relatively low abrasivity along with clinically proven stain-removal and whitening efficacy provides a unique balance in helping achieve maximal benefits with minimal risks."

A separate analysis in The Journal of Clinical Dentistry reported that baking soda can effectively remove plaque, which is one of the reasons your teeth become discolored. Healthy adult volunteers were asked to forego oral hygiene for 24 hours in order for plaque to build up. They were then asked to brush their teeth using dentifrices that either contained or did not contain baking soda.

The researchers noted that "… baking soda dentifrices enhanced plaque removal effectiveness of tooth brushing to a significantly greater extent than the non-baking soda dentifrice products."8

A Stylecraze article9 offers several methods on how to whiten teeth with baking soda. Personally, I would not recommend some of the techniques in the page, particularly those that make use of aluminum foil and hydrogen peroxide, but here's one that's safe enough for you to try:

Baking Soda and Water

You'll need:

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 to 2 teaspoons of plain water

Procedure:

1. Create a paste by mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with just enough water.

2. Put the paste on your toothbrush and then apply all over your teeth.

3. Allow the mixture to work on your teeth for a minute. Afterward, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water. Do this every other day for a week.

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How to Whiten Teeth Fast: Use Salt With Baking Soda

If you're looking for instant results, you can mix baking soda with salt. Here's what to do:10

Baking Soda and Salt

You'll need:

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Procedure:

1. Mix the two ingredients together.

2. Put a small amount on your finger and then work it all over your teeth. Leave it there for two to three minutes.

3. Rinse your mouth with water thoroughly.

The results will be noticeable immediately, but if you want more pronounced results, try doing this every day for a week.

Baking soda and lemon is another whitening solution that has become popular, but according to Medical News Today, there is insufficient evidence that lemon juice may heighten baking soda's teeth whitening effects.11

Oil Pulling With Coconut Oil May Help Whiten Teeth

Coconut oil is one of the most beneficial and versatile products you can have at home. It offers myriad health benefits, including promoting brain function (thanks to its ketones),12 maintaining skin health13 and even helping curb Candida albicans imbalance in the gut.14 Coconut oil has also been shown to boost oral health, as massaging it on your gums may help reduce plaque and Streptococcus mutans, which can cause tooth decay.15

Instead of simply massaging coconut oil on your gums or teeth, though, I recommend using it for oil pulling. This Ayurvedic practice, which involves swishing the oil in your mouth and then spitting it out afterward, is said to help treat at least 30 ailments, including diabetes, headaches and asthma.16

Several studies have supported these claims on oil pulling, although in many of these studies, the main oil used was sesame oil.17,18 However, due to the high concentration of antibacterial medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil, I believe it to be far better for this practice. Plus, as a side effect, it whitens your teeth naturally. Here's how to do oil pulling with coconut oil:

  1. Measure out about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and place it in your mouth.
  2. Swish the oil around your mouth. Use your tongue and cheeks to pull the oil through your teeth. Coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees F (24.4 degrees C), but will quickly liquefy once you start moving it around your mouth. Relax your jaw muscles to avoid muscle fatigue.
  3. Do not gargle the oil like you would with mouthwash. Be careful not to swallow it as well. If you feel the urge to swallow, spit out the oil and start again.
  4. The oil will thicken after a few minutes and then become milky white. After five to 10 minutes, spit it into your garbage can or outdoors. Don't spit it into your sink, or it may clog your drain.

To further reduce bacterial growth, increase the pH in your mouth after pulling. You can do this by gargling a solution composed of a teaspoon of baking soda with 6 ounces of water. Bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, so increasing the pH will discourage growth.

In place of baking soda, you can use potassium bicarbonate. Most people are deficient in potassium, not sodium, so this is a good way to help boost your levels.

Turmeric for Teeth Whitening: Does It Work?

Turmeric's benefits for oral health have been known for a long time. One study even notes that it has "a role in the treatment of periodontal diseases and oral cancers."19 However, there are many who doubt its potential for whitening teeth, especially since this spice is popularly used to dye fabric yellow. In fact, if you use it with your bare hands, it can give your skin a yellow tinge.

There are many dental health sites claiming that turmeric can actually whiten teeth. According to NewZDental.com, it works by directly cleansing the surface of the tooth. Mixing it with other tooth whiteners like baking soda and coconut oil may also boost the effectiveness of these products.20

Dr. Hans Malmstrom, a dental expert at University of Rochester Medicine, says there are no studies specifically claiming turmeric to have whitening properties.21 However, its ability to help reduce plaque buildup has been well-recognized,22 which is probably where this belief arose. If you want to give turmeric a shot, here's a tips from GoodtoKnow:23

"… [B]rush turmeric onto your teeth by wetting your brush and dipping it into the powder. You will then have to leave it for around three to five minutes so it can get to work, before rinsing and brushing off."

You can try this for a few days and observe if it will produce results. Just remember that the turmeric will stain your toothbrush, so you may need to get another one just for this specific whitening routine.

Can You Whiten Teeth With Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal has found its way into numerous personal care products, from facial masks to facial washes, and even exfoliants. Toothpaste manufacturers have also come out with activated charcoal toothpastes that claim to whiten teeth. However, activated charcoal is very abrasive and may cause your tooth enamel significant damage, so it's better to steer clear of it.

Even some experts don't recommend it. Damien Walmsley, a scientific adviser for the British Dental Association, voices his skepticism about the benefits of brushing with this substance. In an article in The Guardian, he says "There isn't the evidence to show that activated charcoal is good for your teeth. Charcoal is an abrasive substance so prolonged use could actually damage the enamel."24

One study, published in the Journal of Physics: Conference Series, confirms this, saying that using charcoal toothpaste can "increase the surface roughness of tooth enamel."25 

Use Fruits: Banana Peel and Strawberry for Teeth Whitening

Aside from being wonderful sources of nutrients, fruits, specifically banana and strawberries, may potentially help lighten your teeth's yellow color. Here's what to do:

Use banana peel to whiten your teeth — According to a study in the journal Ayu, it's the nutrients in bananas — namely manganese, potassium and magnesium — that help give your teeth a brighter white appearance.26 Simply rub the inside of the peel of a ripe banana all over your teeth for a minute. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then brush with a toothpaste.27

Brush with mashed strawberriesAccording to an article in AARP, the whitening effects of strawberries come from the enzyme called malic acid. Simply mash the strawberries and rub all over your teeth. Leave them alone for five minutes and then rinse.28 

Strawberries can work as a bleaching agent on your teeth, according to a study by researchers from the Department of Oral Biology Faculty of Dentistry in Indonesia. It's said that strawberries consumption eliminate the discoloration of your tooth, particularly those that are caused by food intake.29

How to Whiten Teeth With Braces

People with braces worry that the color of their teeth may change over time. While the solutions above may help bring back the natural white color of their teeth, they can also lead to uneven coloring and dark spots, since the braces are glued directly on the teeth. When th braces are eventually removed, the untreated areas underneath may appear darker and yellowish.30

If you have braces, there are steps you can take to prevent your teeth from becoming stained any further. Brush your teeth after every meal, and make sure to floss as well. Do oil pulling using coconut oil. You can also avoid foods that stain your teeth like red wine, coffee and tea. Once your braces are off, then you can try the options above to give your teeth an even and lighter color.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Whiten Teeth

Q: How can I get rid of yellow teeth?

A. Baking soda and coconut oil pulling are two natural remedies that may help bring back your teeth's natural color. Rubbing with banana peel,31 applying turmeric32 and brushing with mashed strawberries33 may also work.

Q: How long does it take to whiten teeth at home?

A. The time it takes for natural teeth whitening remedies to work vary. Hawaii Family Dental notes that it may take a couple of weeks before the effects of baking soda become apparent. Some people, however, see small but noticeable changes just after their first time of using this home remedy.34

Q: Does whitening your teeth damage them?

A. There are some teeth whitening products that are not recommended because of the potential damage they can inflict on your enamel. Activated charcoal toothpastes are one example, as they are found to be highly abrasive.

Whitening strips that have hydrogen peroxide in their formulation are another example, as the hydrogen peroxide was found to not only penetrate the enamel and dentin, but also affect the amount of collagen in the dentin. Read more about it in this article, "Whitening Strips or Soda? Which Is Worse for Your Teeth?"

+ Sources and References
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