In 2021, U.S. consumers splurged over $11.5 billion on teeth-brightening endeavors, with over $1.5 billion dedicated to home-based solutions.
The market offers an abundance of teeth-lightening choices.
Yet, many of these products rely on chemical bleaching agents, raising health apprehensions among users.
For those keen on enhancing their smile without chemical additives, this guide presents various natural and secure alternatives.
Why do teeth appear yellow?
Several reasons can lead to teeth taking on a yellowish hue.
Dietary choices might stain the enamel – the tooth’s outer protective layer. Furthermore, the accumulation of plaque can give teeth a yellow tint.
Typically, routine cleanings and effective whitening solutions can address this kind of staining.
But in some cases, the teeth’s yellow appearance is due to enamel erosion, exposing the underlying dentin. Dentin is a naturally yellow substance located beneath the enamel.
Discover 6 natural methods to brighten your smile.
1. Practice oil pulling
Oil pulling is a traditional Indian folk remedy meant to improve oral hygiene and remove toxins from the body.
The practice involves swishing oil around in your mouth to remove bacteria, which can turn into plaque and cause your teeth to look yellow.
Traditionally, Indians used sunflower or sesame oil for oil pulling, but any oil will work.
Coconut oil is popular because it has a pleasant taste and many health benefits.
Coconut oil is also high in lauric acid, which is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria.
A few studies have shown that daily oil pulling reduces mouth bacteria, plaque, and gingivitis.
Streptococcus mutans is one of the primary types of bacteria in the mouth that cause plaque and gingivitis. One study found that daily swishing with sesame oil significantly reduced Streptococcus mutans in saliva in as little as 1 week.
Unfortunately, no scientific studies have proven that oil pulling whitens your teeth. However, it’s a safe practice and worth a try. Many people claim their teeth are whiter and brighter after regular oil pulling.
To oil pull, put 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and push and pull the oil through your teeth. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you may need to wait a few seconds for it to melt. Continue the oil pulling for 15–20 minutes.
Be sure to spit the coconut oil into a toilet or trash can, as it could return to solid form once in your drain pipes and cause a clog.
Unlike many other tooth-whitening methods, coconut oil pulling does not expose your teeth to acid or other ingredients that erode the enamel. This means it’s safe to do daily.
Summary: Coconut oil pulling involves swishing oil in your mouth for 15–20 minutes to remove bacteria. Practicing this daily can reduce plaque and may brighten your teeth.
2. Brush your teeth with baking soda
Baking soda has natural whitening properties, which is why it’s a popular ingredient in commercial toothpaste.
It’s a mild abrasive that can help scrub away surface stains on teeth.
Additionally, baking soda creates an alkaline environment in your mouth, which prevents bacteria from growing.
This is not a remedy that will whiten your teeth overnight, but you should notice a difference in the appearance of your teeth over time.
Science has not yet proven that brushing with plain baking soda will whiten your teeth, but several studies show that toothpaste containing baking soda has a significant whitening effect.
One study found that toothpaste containing baking soda was significantly more effective at removing yellow stains from teeth than standard toothpaste without baking soda. The higher the concentration of baking soda, the greater the effect.
Furthermore, a review of five studies found that toothpaste containing baking soda removed plaque from teeth more effectively than non-baking soda toothpaste.
Suggested read: Oil pulling with coconut oil: Benefits & tips
To use this remedy, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 2 teaspoons of water and brush your teeth with the paste. You can do this a few times per week.
Summary: Brushing with a paste made with baking soda and water can reduce bacteria in your mouth and buff away surface stains.
3. Use hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent that kills bacteria in your mouth.
People have been using hydrogen peroxide for years to disinfect wounds because of its ability to kill bacteria.
Many commercial whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide at a much higher concentration than you will use.
Unfortunately, no studies have investigated the effects of rinsing or brushing with hydrogen peroxide alone, but several studies have analyzed commercial toothpaste containing peroxide.
One study found that toothpaste containing baking soda and 1% hydrogen peroxide led to significantly whiter teeth.
Another study found that brushing with a commercial toothpaste containing baking soda and peroxide twice daily led to 62% whiter teeth in 6 weeks.
However, there are some questions regarding the safety of hydrogen peroxide.
While heavily diluted concentrations appear safe, substantial concentrations or overuse can cause gum irritation and tooth sensitivity. There’s also concern that high doses may cause cancer, but this has not been proven.
One way to use hydrogen peroxide is as a mouthwash before you brush your teeth. Ensure you use a 1.5% or 3% solution to avoid side effects.
The drugstore’s most common concentration of hydrogen peroxide is a 3% solution. You can easily dilute this concentration to 1.5% by mixing equal parts peroxide and water.
Another way to use hydrogen peroxide is by mixing it with baking soda to make toothpaste. Combine 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and gently brush your teeth with the mixture.
Suggested read: Benefits of coconut oil for dental health
Limit the use of this homemade paste to a few times per week, as overuse can erode your tooth enamel.
Summary: Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent and can kill bacteria in your mouth. You can use it as a mouthwash or mix it with baking soda to form a whitening toothpaste.
4. Eat fruits and vegetables
A diet high in fruits and vegetables may be suitable for both your body and your teeth.
While they’re no substitute for brushing them, crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables can help rub plaque away as you chew.
Strawberries and pineapple are two fruits that have been claimed to help whiten your teeth.
Celebrities have popularized the use of a natural remedy to whiten teeth, which involves a mixture of baking soda and strawberry.
Proponents of this method claim that the malic acid found in strawberries will remove discoloration on your teeth, while the baking soda will buff away stains.
However, this remedy has not been completely backed up by science.
While strawberries may help exfoliate your teeth and make them appear whiter, they are unlikely to penetrate the stains on your teeth.
A recent study found that a strawberry and baking soda mixture produced very little color change in teeth, compared with commercial whitening products.
If you try this method, limit its use to a few times per week.
Despite studies showing that a strawberry and baking soda paste had a minimal effect on tooth enamel, excessive use could cause damage.
To use this remedy, smash a fresh strawberry, combine it with baking soda, and brush it onto your teeth.
Some claim that pineapple can whiten teeth.
A study found that a toothpaste containing bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, was significantly more effective at removing tooth stains than standard toothpaste.
However, there is no evidence that eating pineapples produces the same effect.
Summary: Certain fruits may have properties that help whiten teeth. Regularly consume raw fruits and vegetables to help rub off plaque and keep your teeth looking bright.
5. Prevent tooth stains before they happen
Although teeth naturally become yellow with age, there are ways to prevent staining and maintain a brighter smile.
Limit staining foods and beverages
Coffee, red wine, soda, and dark berries are infamous for staining teeth.
That doesn’t mean you have to altogether avoid them, but you should limit the amount of time these substances are in contact with your teeth.
Suggested read: 22 benefits and uses of baking soda
If possible, drink beverages known to stain teeth out of a straw to prevent direct contact with your teeth.
Moreover, brush your teeth roughly 30 minutes after consuming one of these foods or beverages to limit their effects on the color of your teeth.
Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco, as both can cause tooth discoloration.
Limit your sugar intake
If you want whiter teeth, cut back on your sugar intake.
A diet high in sugar supports the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the primary type of bacteria that causes plaque and gingivitis.
When you consume sugary food, be sure to brush your teeth soon after.
Get plenty of calcium in your diet
Some tooth discoloration is caused by enamel eroding and exposing the dentin underneath, which is yellow. Therefore, anything you do to strengthen the enamel of your teeth will help keep your teeth pearly white.
Calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, and broccoli may help protect your teeth from enamel erosion.
Summary: A healthy diet with enough calcium can help prevent your teeth from becoming yellow. Brushing your teeth soon after you eat can also help prevent stains.
6. Don’t underestimate the value of brushing and flossing
While some tooth discoloration naturally comes with age, it’s essentially a result of plaque buildup.
Regular brushing and flossing can help your teeth stay white by reducing bacteria in your mouth and preventing plaque buildup.
Toothpaste gently rubs out stains on your teeth, and flossing removes bacteria that lead to plaque.
Regular dental cleanings can also help your teeth stay clean and white.
Summary: Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular cleanings at the dentist’s office, prevent the buildup of yellowing plaque on your teeth.
Other methods that are not proven
Although there are several natural teeth whitening methods available, their safety and effectiveness have not been scientifically proven.
Some of the unproven methods include:
- Activated charcoal. Brushing with powdered charcoal supposedly pulls toxins from the mouth and removes stains from teeth.
- Kaolin clay. Proponents of this method claim that brushing with clay helps remove stains from teeth.
- Fruit peels. Rubbing orange, lemon, or banana peels on your teeth makes them whiter.
- Apple cider vinegar. There is no evidence that using vinegar as a mouthwash helps whiten your teeth. On the contrary, it weakens the enamel and promotes tooth decay.
Advocates of these methods claim they make teeth significantly whiter, but no studies have evaluated their effectiveness. This also means they have not been tested for side effects when used on teeth.
Summary: Activated charcoal, kaolin clay, and fruit peels may help whiten your teeth, but no studies have evaluated the safety or effectiveness of these methods.
Achieving brighter teeth can be done naturally through a variety of methods. Many of these solutions effectively eliminate surface stains on your teeth with gentle effectiveness.
However, most dentists offer whitening treatments that are much stronger than these natural remedies. They involve bleaching the teeth, which may be more effective for severe tooth discoloration. Overuse of any whitening product can damage your teeth.
Always check with your dentist about your options and which would work best for you.