Naturally, our teeth were created/developed white – with an inner pulp chamber, beneath a protective dentin layer, beneath a hard outer enamel surface used for chewing. Over time due to everyday habits, medications/medical conditions, and just plan old aging our teeth’s natural white gives way to stains.
There are two types of stains associated with teeth. Extrinsic stains are those that are generally caused by food and drink on the enamel and can soak through the enamel and affect the dentin, as well. Keep in mind anything that can stain clothing can also stain teeth: coffee, tea, dark-colored colas, red wine, soy sauce, syrup. These stains happen because the certain pigments in these things adhere to the protein pellicle on a tooth – a sticky substance that coats teeth. For whitening treatments of any sort to be completely effective they need to be able to remove the stains from the enamel and dentin, and to clean away this protein pellicle to prevent stains from returning right away.
The second type of staining is called “intrinsic.” It is when teeth are stained from the inside out or are discolored beneath the enamel. This can happen from overuse or overexposure to fluoride (fluoridosis) and lack of intake of adequate calcium, certain medications (usually tetracycline), and medical conditions or treatments (chemo, radiation). These stains are much harder to address because they are not just “surface” stains. In many of these cases, a professional dental whitening (which may include laser whitening) may be the only way to get rid of these stains.
For basic extrinsic staining, though, there are several natural, at-home remedies that will save you money and provide acceptable – if not perfect – results. If you can’t afford (or simply don’t want to pay for) a professional bleaching or whitening, and if you can’t be bothered trying to figure out gels and trays and convenient times when you can complete the treatment as directed without exposing your whitening efforts to the world, then perhaps these simple methods will do the trick.
Strawberries: You can use strawberries directly or create a paste combining crushed strawberries and baking soda. The malic acid in the strawberries acts as an astringent. There is some debate as to how long is safe to leave this mixture on your teeth. If you brush your teeth before 20 minutes, some warn that you could also be brushing your enamel away. Others warn that leaving it on too long could lead to tooth decay because of the sugar and acid in the strawberries working together.
Orange peel & Lemon Juice: These also works quite well according to those who have used it. Orange oil and lemon juice are well known for their cleaning properties. Some also recommend grinding up bay leaves and the orange peel to form a paste that you can brush onto your teeth. Be aware, though, that the citric acid in the orange peel can also strip your teeth of calcium weakening enamel. If you do decide to use this method, this should not be used as a regular whitening treatment.
Hydrogen Peroxide: This is a common ingredient in most whitening toothpastes and rinses (usually combined with carbamide peroxide). While hydrogen peroxide is readily available and easy-to-use, you really need to be sure of what you’re doing. Doing this on your own – not under the supervision of a dentist – means that you will be using a smaller concentration of peroxide than you would get with a dental-prescribed treatment, but there are still risks if you end up using too much at a time or too frequently. (You can see more information by visiting my article on hydrogen peroxide: https://www.empowher.com/news/herarticle/2009/08/25/use-hydrogen-peroxide-dentistry.)
Apples, carrots, cider vinegar, ash wood, and baking soda on its own have also been shown to have whitening properties. I know my mom always told me to use an apple to brush my teeth if there wasn't a toothbrush around.
As with all things, it is wise not to just jump into a treatment without learning all you can about it first - including how to apply the treatment, the concentrations involved, how long you can expect to continue the treatment until you see results. The Internet is a great resource, but don’t be afraid to talk to your dentist, either, and report any issues that arise once you start whitening. Common side effects are temperature sensitivity and gum irritation. Temperature sensitivity can come from the enamel being stripped away or eroded through the whitening process. Gum irritation can happen since the whitening agents are acids.
Whitening with “natural products” doesn’t mean that they are necessarily safe. For those for whom at-home whitening is the only option, these natural remedies are a great alternative to the expensive dental-chair whitenings or over-the-counter whitening kits. Remember that there are rinses and toothpastes that whiten with natural ingredients so you don’t have to mix things yourself (supersmile, for example, is an effective, convenient, and easy-to-use system of whitening products).
But to make sure you do things safely you need to be informed and make sure you know what you’re doing before going ahead.
Sources: www.docshop.com; www.supersmile.com, www.healthnews.com,