While tooth-whitening kits are readily available at most pharmacies, many natural remedies can help remove stains and protect tooth enamel.
However, most whitening products use chemicals to bleach your teeth, which concerns many people.
If you want whiter teeth, but also want to avoid the chemicals, then this article lists many options that are both natural and safe.
Why teeth turn yellow
Teeth turn yellow for two reasons, both of which tend to accelerate with age:
The outer layer of teeth consists of enamel, which is colored almost white and protects the deeper tooth structure. Beneath the enamel is a layer of tissue called dentin, which is yellow-brown. When the enamel layer thins or wears away, the teeth begin to look darker.
Acidic foods, gum disease, and aging can wear down tooth enamel. Some people also have enamel that is naturally thinner.
Specific foods and beverages, such as coffee, can stain the teeth. Some foods that stain the teeth may also wear down enamel, increasing the yellowing.
Other sources of stains include smoking and tobacco products and certain types of antibiotics.
There are multiple factors that cause teeth to become dull and lose their bright, white sparkle.
Certain foods can stain your enamel, which is the outermost layer of your teeth. Additionally, plaque build-up on your teeth can cause them to look yellow.
This type of discoloration can usually be treated with regular cleaning and whitening remedies.
However, sometimes teeth look yellow because the hard enamel has eroded away, revealing the dentin underneath. Dentin is a naturally yellow, bony tissue that lies underneath the enamel.
7 Simple Ways to Naturally Whiten Your Teeth at Home
Try Oil Pulling: 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.
Brush with Baking Soda: Brushing with a paste made with baking soda and water can reduce bacteria in your mouth and buff away surface stains.
Use Hydrogen Peroxide: 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.
Use Apple Cyder Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties that may help whiten your teeth. However, overuse of vinegar can also erode the enamel on your teeth, so limit its use to a few times per week.
Use Fruits and Vegetables (Strawberries and Pineapple): 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.
Prevent Tooth Stains Before They Happen: 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.
Here are some of the unproven methods:
- 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 is claimed to make them whiter.
Activated charcoal, kaolin clay and fruit peels may help whiten your teeth, but no studies have evaluated the safety or effectiveness of these methods.
There are several natural methods to help whiten your teeth. Most of these remedies work by gently removing surface stains on your teeth.
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.
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening involves bleaching your teeth to make them lighter. It can’t make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades.
What causes yellow teeth?
There are many factors that can cause teeth to turn yellow. Teeth can become yellow from:
- certain foods or drinks, such as blueberries, red wine, coffee, or tea
- a diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates
- smoking or chewing tobacco
- side effects of certain medications and mouthwashes
- age, as older adults are more likely to have yellow teeth
- mouth trauma
- excessive fluoride use
- poor dental care and oral hygiene
- chronic dry mouth or lack of saliva
Who can do teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a form of dentistry and should only be carried out by a dentist or another regulated dental professional, such as a dental hygienist or dental therapist, on the prescription of a dentist.
Some beauty salons offer teeth whitening, but this is illegal if there’s no dental professional present, and it may put your oral health at risk.
You can also buy DIY home teeth whitening kits but these may also carry risks.
What happens during teeth whitening?
If you have your teeth whitened you’ll need to make several visits to the dental surgery over a couple of months.
The dentist will take an impression of your teeth to make a mouthguard and tell you how to use it with a bleaching gel. Then, using your mouthguard at home, you regularly apply the gel for a specified period of time over 2 to 4 weeks. Some whitening gels can be left on for up to 8 hours at a time, which shortens the treatment period to 1 week.
Laser whitening, also known as power whitening, is another type of teeth whitening system that a dentist can provide. A bleaching product is painted onto your teeth and then a light or laser is shone on them to activate the whitening. Laser whitening takes about an hour.
Can any dentist whiten teeth?
Any dentist can whiten teeth as long as they’re registered with the General Dental Council. Registered dental therapists and dental hygienists can also carry out teeth whitening on the prescription of a dentist.
What about home kits and beauty salons for teeth whitening?
Only go to a registered dental professional for teeth whitening because whitening by people who aren’t qualified, for example in beauty salons, is illegal. Home kits also carry risks.
What are the risks of home kits and salon teeth whitening?
Some home kits don’t contain enough whitening product to be effective. Also, if a dental professional isn’t doing the whitening, the mouthguard provided may not fit properly so some of the bleaching gel may leak out onto your gums and into your mouth, causing blistering and sensitivity.
Teeth whitening carried out in beauty salons by untrained staff or staff without dental qualifications puts your oral health at risk and is also illegal.
How do I find out about getting my teeth whitened?
Your dentist will advise you whether whitening is right for you. It may be that teeth whitening isn’t suitable, for example if you have gum disease or crowns.
What should I ask the dentist before going ahead?
Don’t be afraid to ask simple questions about the types of whitening treatment available, what results you can expect and whether the work is guaranteed for a certain period of time.
You may also want to ask them whether there are any risks involved – for example, increasing the sensitivity of your teeth.
Try to talk to other people who’ve had the same treatment or visit another dentist for a second opinion until you feel confident. Always ask for a written treatment plan and price estimate before going ahead.
Is teeth whitening permanent?
Teeth whitening isn’t permanent. It can last from a few months to up to 3 years – it varies from person to person.
The whitening effect won’t last as long if you smoke or drink red wine, tea or coffee, which can all stain your teeth.
Will teeth whitening work on false teeth?
Teeth whitening doesn’t work on dentures, crowns, fillings or veneers.
What are the risks of teeth whitening?
No matter what treatment you use, there’s a chance your gums will be sensitive to the chemicals used in teeth whitening, particularly if you already have sensitive teeth. There’s also a chance of burns to gums and some of the whitening kits used at home can harm tooth enamel.