March 6, 2019
If you would like to flash somebody a smile, but you are self-conscious about your less-than-pearly whites, you have plenty of company. In a recent study conducted among professional members of the American Association of Orthodontists, nearly 90% said that their patients requested tooth-whitening procedures.
In fact, the association says, the demand for tooth whitening has grown almost exponentially in the United States over the past 20 years.
But, don’t just reach for the bleach to whiten those choppers. Real Simple magazine recommends ten alternative treatments that will brighten your teeth without harsh chemicals. And the variety of choices may surprise you—among them:
- Banana peels: Believe it or not, this option even is recommended by dentists. Bananas are high in potassium, magnesium, and manganese, and their peel is an effective tool for teeth whitening. The pros advise starting with a banana that is just barely ripe, because that’s when they have the optimum amount of potassium for whitening and brightening teeth. Cut off a small part of the peel and rub the inside of it against your teeth for about two minutes, covering as many teeth as thoroughly as possible in that time. When you’re done, be sure to brush your teeth. Bananas are loaded with sugar, so properly cleaning your teeth after using this treatment is essential. An important note: Limit the use of the banana peels to just once a day or even just once a week for optimal results.
- Activated charcoal: Rubbing a black, sooty-looking substance all over your teeth in order to brighten your smile might seem counterintuitive, but, Real Simple says, it’s quite effective. Activated charcoal removes toxins from your mouth while also killing bad bacteria, preventing cavities, and keeping the pH balanced. Some users opt for charcoal toothpaste or polish, while others buy charcoal pills from the store, crack them open, and use the powder mixed with water as their toothpaste. You might miss the minty freshness of traditional toothpaste, and your charcoal stained toothbrush might gross you out a bit, but hopefully your new, whiter smile will be worth it.
- Strawberries and baking soda: Mix one strawberry with a half-teaspoon of baking soda and applying the mixture to your teeth for five minutes. When you brush your teeth with a traditional toothpaste afterwards (a must!), you also might consider flossing. Those strawberry seeds can get stuck between your molars.
- Turmeric: People have been singing the praises of turmeric. Some dip a wet toothbrush directly into the turmeric powder (and then brace themselves, because it doesn’t taste very good), and then let the turmeric sit on their teeth for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly. After that, you can brush your teeth with your regular toothpaste and, once all remnants of the yellow powder have disappeared, you should have a whiter smile to show for it.
- Coconut oil: This might be just another use for readers who already use coconut oil for everything from a moisturizer, to a hair mask, but “oil pulling” with coconut oil (using it like a mouthwash) seems to have some merit. But it seems to be a lot of work: For the most effective results, you should oil pull daily for 20 minutes—but, Real Simple advises, “feel free to start at five if your jaw gets tired,” and adds, “Don’t go crazy on the amount of oil you swish around—most people can use about a teaspoon of oil and see results.”
- Lemon or orange peels: People have seen some success in using the rind of lemons and oranges for teeth whitening. If you do this, be sure to rinse thoroughly after, or even brush your teeth with your regular toothpaste to avoid acid erosion of your teeth.. Some people simply add a few drops of orange essential oil to their toothpaste instead, which is safer for your teeth, according to this study.
- Lemon juice and baking soda: Mix lemon juice with a little bit of baking soda before drying your teeth with a cotton ball or swab to prep for the treatment. Apply the combo to your teeth, let it sit for a minute, and then gently brush it off. Be sure not to keep it on for more than a minute. After that, you run the risk of enamel erosion.
- Apple cider vinegar: Dentists recommend creating a solution that is one part apple cider vinegar and two parts water. Swish it around in your mouth for about a minute, rinse; and then wait at least a half hour to brush your teeth to avoid damaging your enamel. This won’t lead to an instantly brighter smile—but if it’s used properly and consistently, it’s a reliable, long-term organic tooth whitening alternative.
- Guava leaves: Guava juice is great, but guava leaves are apparently the part of the fruit with the benefits. Crush the leaves up with a mortar and pestle to create a coarse toothpaste. Brush with it like you would normally, and rinse. Unlike some citrus-based teeth whitening solutions, guava leaves aren’t acidic, so you don’t have to worry about enamel erosion if you keep it on for too long. Bonus: Guava leaves might help alleviate tooth pain, too.
- Clay: Most of us wouldn’t think of putting clay in our mouths, but it does have some tooth polishing potential. Use water and clay to create a paste, and then apply to your teeth for about two minutes. Over time, your teeth should appear whiter and feel cleaner, too, with zero risk of damage or sensitivity.
So, if you want to look as bright and white as your local news anchor, your favorite actress, or even your next-door neighbor—and probably do it at a lower cost—reach into the cupboard or refrigerator instead of the medicine cabinet.
Nervous? Bring this list along the next time you go to the dentist and ask for a qualified opinion!
Research contact: @RealSimple