Does bicarbonate of soda really remove stains from your teeth? Can you actually get a whiter smile using DIY home remedies? When it comes to teeth-whitening treatments, questions abound, so we’ve decided to get to the bottom of the matter. From using strawberries to lift red-wine stains to whether baking powder really does what Pinterest suggests, we’ve taken the DIY teeth whitening myths to actual dentists for the truth behind the hashtags. Want to know what we found out?
Keep scrolling for the home treatments that can actually give you whiter teeth—according to the experts.
You may have seen A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow to Shailene Woodley raving about oil pulling as a natural way to boost the health of your teeth and gums, but it could also help lift stains. “Oil pulling involves swishing a tablespoon of oil around the mouth for 15 to 20 minutes; this then supposedly draws out toxins in your body and your mouth, improving your oral health and in turn, whitening teeth as stains are drawn out and removed,” explains Peta Leigh, MD, dentist and teeth-whitening expert at London-based practice Elleven. However, the trick doesn’t come without caution. “If you are going to try this technique, make sure you do not substitute your regular visits to the dentist, as it will not reverse tooth decay,” notes Dr. Leigh. If you’re keen we’d suggest you start with sunflower, sesame or coconut oil.
Fact: Many whitening toothpastes include sodium bicarbonate as a key ingredient, thanks to its natural stain-lifting abilities. The warning from our dentists here, however, is that it can be an abrasive ingredient to use on your teeth regularly—it can damage the enamel on your teeth, potentially leading to cavities or sensitivity. If you’re going to give a homemade toothpaste a try, Richard Marques, MD, who heads up London’s Wimpole Street Dental, advises mixing 1/4 teaspoon with water and then applying it to the teeth using your toothbrush. It’s a good idea to limit your DIY treatments to just once a week; switch things up with a gentler toothpaste on other days.
A Pinterest favourite, apple cider vinegar is regularly used in home remedies for everything from shinier hair to better digestion—even Victoria Beckham says she swears by taking two tablespoons of the stuff every morning. But can it whiten your teeth? Apparently it can. While the natural acids in ACV are gentle, they are still great cleaning agents, which can break down plaque and bacteria that can lead to discolouration. Make sure you rinse well after using it though—it’s best to either brush with it or rub it directly onto your teeth and gums—and follow with a regular toothpaste.
Okay, this isn’t exactly a DIY treatment per se, but our dentists are in agreement that the safest way of all to keep your teeth pearly white is to brush regularly (electric is best)—and if you can, after eating or drinking. Avoiding an overload of the top stain culprits (among them, coffee, black tea, red wine and smoking) is always going to be a failsafe plan too. If you can’t brush during the day, Dr. Marques suggests sipping on water or milk: “Water is a natural cleanser whilst the calcium in milk will help strengthen tooth enamel and your jaw bone.”
Activated charcoal (read: not the stuff you’ll find in barbecue pits) is super absorbent, meaning it’ll effectively suck up any toxins or bacteria it comes into contact with—including the kind that leaves stains on your teeth. “Activated charcoal’s enormous surface area is dotted with the numerous nooks and crannies that draw in and trap toxic substances, including stains on teeth. It can be brushed on or rinsed around the teeth,” Adam Thorne, MD, of the Harley Street Dental Group, tells NetDoctor.co.uk.
Though as with bicarbonate of soda, there are concerns that grainy activated charcoal powders could cause abrasions to your tooth enamel. If you’re using activated charcoal powder as a stain-removing paste, make sure to mix it well (the runnier the better) and limit use to once a week.
This is one we’d never heard before! Apparently ripe strawberries can help to give your teeth a deep clean. “Strawberries really do work due to the malic acid they contain, which is a natural cleanser,” explains Dr. Marques. Dr. Thorne agrees: “If you use strawberries as a teeth whitener, choose a really ripe strawberry, rub it on your teeth and just like exfoliating the skin, it does remove superficial debris. The malic acid won't actually break down the stain molecules, but the surface clean gives your teeth a whiter appearance.” Apples contain the same acid, too, so make them one of your five a day for pearly gnashers.
Opening Image: H&M