Whiter teeth, like thick, shiny, hair, is something that many people in our cosmetically driven world desire today. In fact, Americans spend over $1.4 billion dollars in over-the-counter teeth whitening products every year-that’s a good chunk of money just to achieve a different shade of teeth. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve tried OTC teeth whitener-I even paid to have my dentist do it once. It worked for a bit, but my teeth got so sensitive I couldn’t stand it. I also felt I really didn’t need to be so obsessed with the color of my teeth that I paid a bunch of money for a bunch of who-knows-what that made my teeth hurt, so I started looking into more natural alternatives. With a bit of patience, I think you can naturally restore whiteness to your teeth. They may not get to be scary sear-out-somebodies-corneas –when-you –smile white, but they’ll appear more like you took good care of your pretty pearly whites rather than just bleaching them like crazy.
Why do teeth get yellow?
To figure out how to whiten our teeth, we have to know why they get yellow in the first place. There are several factors that play a part, including genetics, what kind of food and drink you consume, and how well you practice oral hygiene. A tooth is made up of 4 tissues-enamel, which is the strong white covering that protects the tooth, dentin, which supports the enamel and is a hard yellow material that carries nerves, pulp, which is at the center of the tooth and contains blood and lymph vessels, and cementum, which covers the root of the tooth.
The enamel and dentin is what play the biggest role in color. Certain food and drinks will directly stain the enamel, yes, but over time the two biggest culprits are the nasty food and drink that actually break down the enamel, and weakening enamel as we age. As the enamel breaks down, it reveals the yellow dentin underneath. These remedies will focus on whitening teeth that have already lost some white enamel, but it’s also good to keep in mind that doing things to strengthen enamel is just as important so you can keep it from breaking down further. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (or whitening!)
1. Baking Soda and Lemon Juice Paste
Baking Soda isn’t a shocker here. Sodium bicarbonate (its official name) is mildly abrasive; gently scrubbing away surface stains to return teeth to a whiter shade. It’s also very alkaline (the opposite of acidic) so I would think if you have a very acidic mouth or eat a lot of acidic food, it could help balance out the Ph, which would be useful as acid breaks down enamel-this is strictly speculation on my part. It will also reduce the acidity of the lemon juice, which acts as a natural bleach of sorts. I use a mixture of baking soda and water on some days, and use the lemon juice on others, as I don’t want to overdo it.
You will need…
-Several teaspoons of baking soda
-Enough lemon juice or water to form a paste
Mix several teaspoons of baking soda with enough fresh lemon juice (or water) to make a paste. Wipe your teeth and any extra saliva off of them with a paper towel. Put a good amount of paste onto your toothbrush and apply.
Leave the paste on for 1 minute, then rinse, so as to avoid the acid effecting enamel. If you are using just water you can leave it on for up to 3 minutes.
2. Strawberry, Salt and Baking Soda Scrub
Strawberries are high in Vitamin C, which can help break-down plaque that is causing your teeth to look yellow. It also has an enzyme called malic acid, which may help to remove surface stains. The salt acts as an abrasive portion of the paste, physically scrubbing away stain-causing gunk, and the baking soda is an extra touch that you can choose to leave out if you’d prefer (I just like to add it to anything involving my teeth.)
You will need…
-1-3 large strawberries
-A pinch of seat salt
-1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (optional)
Mash the berries into a pulp, and add a pinch of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of baking soda, if you’re using it. Wipe any extra saliva off your teeth with a paper towel, and then apply a generous portion of the mixture to a toothbrush and apply. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then rinse. Do this nightly.
3. Coconut Oil Rinse
I know this sounds absolutely mad (I thought it was crazy too when I first read about it) but rinsing your mouth with coconut oil (called ‘oil pulling’) is a unique, old, remedy that people swear by to help whiten teeth. It doesn’t sound like the most pleasant thing in the world, but I actually don’t mind the taste, and I think it does make a difference in the color of your teeth. It won’t make a difference by “bleaching” per say, but lauric acid in coconut oil can rid your teeth of bacteria found in plaque that can make them yellow. It is also supposed to promote gum health, and help keep your breath fresh.
You will need…
-About a tablespoon of coconut oil
In the morning, before you brush your teeth, scoop out a tablespoon or a little less (depending on the size of your mouth) of coconut oil. You can either soften it, or just put it in your mouth (I usually do the latter, and just let it soften.) Push, swish, and “pull” the oil through and around your teeth for 10-15 minutes, then spit it out, rinse with water, and brush your teeth.
Note: You can use either of the pastes after you have brushed your teeth at night if you prefer.
Are these remedies going to guarantee ridiculously white teeth within a week? No. You may start to see a difference, but it won’t be as instant as the commercial products. In the end, will your teeth be so white people squint when you open your mouth? No. And I like it better that way. I’ve found that since using these my teeth are indeed whiter, my mouth overall feels healthier and it doesn’t look like I bleached the life out of myself. We live in a world where photo-shopped faces (and teeth) and make-up covered celebrities set the standard for how we look, which makes life hard for people who like, well, real people. As a result we seem to forget what’s good for ourselves, and spend a ton of money just to look like the ideal. By going natural here, you can save the money for something else, feel better about yourself, and have a healthier mouth (and health is what, in the end, creates real beauty.)