We're all in pursuit of that brighter, whiter smile. Unfortunately, things like red wine, our coffee addiction, or—even more surprisingly—things like antibiotics and dark berries, keep us from maintaining those pearly whites. If you want to steer clear of the chemicals in solutions from the store and don't want to blow your bank account with professional teeth whitening appointments, there are a handful of great at-home remedies.
Keep it natural with things you probably already have in your kitchen. These home remedies to whiten teeth are not only convenient, but they actually yield results. Without spending a bunch of money or even making a trip out to the store, you can get on track to the bright, stain-free teeth you've always wanted. Take your pick of one of our favorite methods, as well as advice from the industry's top cosmetic dentists, Dr. Pia Lieb and Dr. Robert Raimondi, and work your way to a whiter smile.
Scroll on for some of the best natural ways to get a whiter, brighter smile at home.
Meet the Expert
- Pia Lieb, DDS, is a cosmetic dentist and founder of the Cosmetic Dentistry Center NYC. She is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry.
- Robert Raimondi, DDS, is a prosthodontist specializing in aesthetic dentistry, veneers, fillings, crowns, implants, and full mouth rehabilitation. He founded and practices at One Manhattan Dental.
Coconut Oil/Oil Pulling
We all know that coconut oil is a miracle worker for our hair, but it turns out it can do your teeth some good, too. The Ayurvedic tradition of oil pulling is meant to help dissolve toxins, bacteria, and plaque inside the mouth, which might result in a brighter smile in addition to improved overall oral health. Swish for 15 to 20 minutes daily (you can start at five and work your way up), and you'll begin to see results in as soon as a week.
If scooping a glob of coconut oil into your mouth seems too intense, try one of these alternatives:
- Use sunflower or sesame seed oil to swish instead; sesame seed oil is the traditional substance used for pulling.
- Put a dollop of coconut oil on your toothbrush and gently scrub away.
Remember, however, that this is not a substitute for your normal dental care. "This is fine, but you still need to do all the regular hygiene steps: floss, brush, clean your tongue, and rinse," says Raimondi.
When it comes to fibrous foods, give an apple a good chew to manually exfoliate those choppers to a brighter, whiter existence. Celery and carrots are also an excellent choice for this technique: "It can clean some of the plaque that is left on your teeth from eating," says Lieb. All that munching also increases saliva production, which is the mouth's natural cleaning agent.
Making cakes, freshening refrigerators, removing laundry stains, and whitening teeth—what can't baking soda do? "Baking soda has a pH opposite of acidic, which is alkaline. This helps to lighten stains on teeth and is mildly abrasive," says Raimondi. "Be careful, as one can overuse it." Make a paste with water and brush with it, but stop if you feel any tingling or burning. This can also help kill bacteria.
If straight baking soda is too much for you, look into toothpaste or mouthwash formulated with it instead. "You have fab toothpastes that contain everything you need for a bright, white smile over the counter," says Lieb. There are a ton of ways to incorporate the miracle powder into other parts of your beauty routine, too.
Calcium is the mineral that makes up tooth enamel; as you're growing, making sure you get enough of it means your teeth will have a healthy layer of protection. Hard cheeses in particular (parmesan, cotija, gouda, Monterey jack, pecorino romano, and asiago, to name a few) help scrub the teeth—in case you needed a reason for more charcuterie boards.
Banana peels—they're not just for cartoons! Before you toss your trash at night, grab a (clean) peel and rub the inside against your teeth for two minutes. "Yes, this is a thing," says Raimondi. "It can actually exfoliate some of the external stains." The potassium, magnesium, and manganese that our bodies love also help teeth appear whiter.
Limit Coffee Intake
This method is not nearly as fun as some of the others, we know, but one of the easiest ways to keep teeth free of stains is—to not stain them in the first place. Dark soda, coffee, black tea, and red wine are all liquids that will have staining or graying effects on teeth over time. And that juice stop you're making on the way to work? "People drink green, red juice, etc., on the go. No one brushes afterward, so the pigment stays on the teeth," says Lieb. Grab a straw for darker beverages and be mindful of how you eat certain dark-colored foods if you want your smile to stay white.
The entries on this list give the appearance of whiter teeth by "using abrasive materials to remove surface stains," says Raimondi, "but can also remove enamel and harm gum tissue." Practice caution when employing any of these techniques, and stop if you notice increased sensitivity or inflammation of the gums.
Between these methods and store solutions like whitening mouthwashes, it won't be long before we're all walking around with the dazzling pearly whites and beaming grins we've always wanted. Everyone grab those sunglasses!
Cleveland Clinic. Tooth discoloration. Updated June 4, 2020.
Madeswaran S, Jayachandran S. Sodium bicarbonate: a review and its uses in dentistry. Indian J Dent Res. 2018;29(5):672-677. doi:10.4103/ijdr.IJDR_30_17
Kalliath C, Mukunda A, Pynadath M, Venugopal V, Prethweeraj J. Comparison between the effect of commercially available chemical teeth whitening paste and teeth whitening paste containing ingredients of herbal origin on human enamel. Ayu. 2018;39(2):113-117.