You want whiter teeth—you also want to go natural. Both are good things on the surface, but it is important that you know about the effectiveness and safety of natural teeth whitening methods before you try them. To help you, we have researched several American Dental Association online Mouth Healthy articles to see what they have to say about different natural teeth whitening methods and their effectiveness and safety.
The ADA article, “Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction,” explains that this approach uses household staples that are naturally acidic (like lemons, oranges, apple cider vinegar), products that contain digestive enzymes (such as pineapple or mango), and something that is abrasive (like baking soda). The problem with this method, says the article, is that fruit and vinegar contain acid, and prolonged contact or using them to scrub your teeth can cause the acid in these foods to wear away at your enamel. And you need enamel, the article explains, because it protects you from tooth sensitivity and cavities.
The same ADA article, “Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction,” explains that this method involves scrubbing your teeth with ingredients like activated charcoal or a baking soda-hydrogen peroxide paste. The article cites the September 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association that found no evidence to support the fact that charcoal is safe or effective for your teeth. Also, the above ADA article reports that using materials that are too abrasive on your teeth can actually make them look more yellow. It explains that enamel is what you actually whiten, but if you use a scrub that is too rough, you can expose the soft, yellow tissue beneath it called dentin. The ADA article, “Whitening,” supports this by siting a study by Yaacob et al. which found that a mixture of charcoal and table salt was not only ineffective (the teeth had a yellow cast, likely due to the removal of the enamel during brushing), but that it also led to deep concave abrasion cavities on the surfaces of the anterior teeth.
Spices and Oils
This method involves swishing oils like coconut oil in your mouth, otherwise known as oil pulling, or using spices like turmeric, explains the ADA article, “Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction.” This article states, however, that there is no reliable scientific evidence to show that oil pulling or turmeric whitens teeth. Another ADA article, “Oil Pulling” explains that this method is an ancient, traditional folk remedy that has been practiced for centuries in India and southern Asia. It involves placing a tablespoon of an edible oil (e.g., sesame, olive, sunflower, coconut) inside the mouth, and swishing or “pulling” the oil through the teeth and mouth for anywhere from 1-5 minutes to up to 20 minutes or longer. However, this ADA article says there are no reliable scientific studies to show that oil pulling reduces cavities and whitens teeth or that it improves oral health. Furthermore, the ADA article, “Whitening” adds that there have been adverse effects associated with oil pulling, including lipoid pneumonia, upset stomach, and diarrhea.
We here at Boulevard Dental Associates understand your desire to use natural products to whiten your teeth. That said, the ADA article, “Whitening,” explains that the only side effects associated with professional whitening are temporary tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. Professional whitening involves a bleaching product from your dentist in a gel form that is delivered in custom-made trays that are fit to minimize the contact of the gel with the gums. Concentrations of the peroxide can range from 10 to 38 percent, and the length of treatment is determined by the concentration that is used. Studies have found that daily treatment times range from 2 to 10 hours for periods of 6 to 28 days.
This same article goes on to explain that temporary tooth sensitivity related to professional whitening is possibly due to the inflammation of the pulp because of peroxide exposure. This sensitivity may develop within 2 to 3 days with the start of bleaching, but it usually resolves by the fourth day after treatment.
The article adds that gum irritation can be a temporary side-effect from gel-based products. However, this is usually due to poor fitting trays or the improper application of the protective barrier or gel. The good news is that gum irritation typically resolves shortly after the end of treatment.
To quote the ADA article, “Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction, “Just because a method is natural doesn’t mean it’s healthy.” To be sure, there are a lot of natural things that are healthy. That said, the above natural teeth whitening methods are either not effective, healthy, or both. For this reason, we at Boulevard Dental Associates recommend either ADA approved over-the-counter teeth whitening products, or professional whitening that your dentist may prescribe. We want your smile to be white, but also healthy!
ADA. Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction. Mouth Healthy. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/natural-teeth-whitening. Accessed March 8, 2020.
ADA. Oil Pulling. Mouth Healthy. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oil-pulling. Accessed March 8, 2020.
ADA. Whitening. Mouth Healthy. https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/whitening. Accessed March 8, 2020.