How To Whiten Your Teeth Naturally

© 2015 by Kate Parker, RDH, BS-DH, RF

how to whiten your teethHow to whiten your teeth inexpensively and naturally is one of the most popular questions patients ask

How to whiten your teeth inexpensively and naturally is one of the most popular questions patients ask dental hygienists and dentists. More than anything else in the mouth, white teeth seem to be a symbol in society that you "have it all together" and take good care of your teeth and your health. Dark colored teeth have been used symbolically in movies and stories to represent the negative aspects of the human persona generally. In a way this puts enormous stress on people to maintain this pristine image that, all told, generally has no bearing on the actual health of their teeth or body.

Though the natural shades of teeth vary, most people have shades of off-white (the color of the second layer of the tooth, dentin, shows through the enamel.) This in no way represents the health of the teeth, mouth, or the rest of the body. In fact, the shades of white that most people consider "ideal" are sometimes difficult to reach and maintain without causing actual harm to the teeth. There is an epidemic of whitening addicts now due to societal pressures and the need to fit a certain ideal. In fact many people destroy their teeth by using teeth whitening treatments too often.

There's nothing wrong with psychological boosts like white teeth if it makes you feel good and gives you confidence, as long as it's not harming anything. After all, the look of your teeth greatly affects your self image and self esteem. But there are safe, natural ways to whiten your teeth without causing harm to the enamel coating or structures beneath. Many of the most effective methods are inexpensive, easy, and require no outside help or dental visits. Before getting into how to whiten your teeth naturally I'll outline the traditional or conventional methods below. 

Conventional Whitening Methods: In-Office Tooth Whitening

how to whiten your teethThe blue light has become almost synonymous with professional teeth whitening, but the research is just not there to back it up

If you're wondering how to whiten your teeth, you're probably debating whether it should be done professionally or at home. Professional whitening is performed in the dental office by the dental hygienist or dentist. It can also be called dentist teeth whitening and in-office bleaching. Generally speaking, in-office whitening is expensive and often unnecessary, as you can usually get the same results at home with products you buy in a store or online.

Tooth whitening vs. tooth bleaching. Tooth whitening is described as restoring the teeth to their natural color (often by removing extrinsic surface stains via toothpaste or mild whitening products used daily.) Tooth bleaching is described as whitening teeth to a shade that's brighter than a person's original tooth color (deeper intrinsic or internal whitening using peroxide or carbamide peroxide products.) If you're like most people you don't want to know how to whiten your teeth, but really how to bleach them to a brighter shade than they started out with. For our purposes, we will lump both of these terms together to describe the basic idea, generally just called "teeth whitening."

How to whiten your teeth effectively is a hot debate. A lot of the attraction to professional whitening is that it's assumed to get better results than at-home whitening. However, research shows no real difference between the two. In fact the blue lights many dentists use are basically a teeth whitening scam, where the LED light acts psychologically rather than physiologically. In other words, the light doesn't actually do anything to whiten the teeth at all. The blue light has become almost synonymous with professional teeth whitening, but the research is just not there to back it up. This is widely known in dental circles, yet dentists still decide to use them for the added wow factor. If you want to know how well-informed your dentist is, ask him/her what effect the blue light has on teeth whitening. The next section discusses how to whiten your teeth at home.

ProsThis method of whitening is generally considered faster than at-home whitening. This is due to the potency of the whitening agents used in the dental office. There is no expertise needed for effective tooth whitening. So-called professional whitening is often a way for dentists to easily cash in on an otherwise inexpensive product.

ConsThe cost is prohibitive ($300-$1,000), and the results are the same as many cheaper at-home whitening systems. In addition, the potency of the whitening agents can harm the teeth when used too frequently (whitening addiction.) The blue lights synonymous with professional whitening are just there for psychological reasons and do nothing to whiten the teeth.

Conventional Whitening Methods: At-Home Tooth Whitening

how to whiten your teethCarbamide peroxide gel placed in trays is the best overall conventional whitening method

Do-it-yourself tooth whitening is done at home with the use of prescribed or over-the-counter whitening products. These range from very mild surfactants like toothpastes to whitening strips and gel trays. 

Generally speaking the same tooth whitening or tooth bleaching results can be accomplished at home as in the dental office. The main difference is the cost (very much cheaper at home) and the time it takes to whiten or bleach the teeth (generally it takes longer at home.) The speed with which the teeth are whitened is dependent on the concentration of the whitening agent, the type of whitening agent, and the amount of time the whitening agent sits on the teeth.

Toothpastes are often considered somewhat ineffective at whitening, however some toothpastes can help to remove extrinsic (surface) stains so that the teeth don't become darkened by daily habits like tea/coffee/wine drinking or eating blueberries, for example. Whitening strips are moderately effective, while carbamide peroxide gel placed in trays and worn overnight is the best overall conventional whitening method.

Pros: At-home whitening is far less expensive than so-called professional tooth whitening, usually by many hundreds of dollars. The same results can be achieved with carbamide peroxide gel at home as are achieved in the dental office. Use of this gel (over many months) has even been proven to reverse intrinsic staining caused by tetracycline use.

Cons: Whitening at home puts the onus on you to do things properly and purchase the right products. Generally a fitted whitening tray is most effective. These are best made in a dental office, but "boil and bite" versions are widely available at most pharmacies. It often takes longer to whiten at home, but it's dependent on product type, concentration, and time.

How Tooth Whitening Actually Works

how to whiten your teethWhitening gels work by releasing oxygen within the micro-fractures, loosening and bubbling stains from within the teeth

Whitening toothpastes: These work by use of extrinsic surfactants or abrasives such as hydrated silica, calcium carbonate, or calcium phosphates. These range from mild surfactants to moderate abrasives. Though they generally do not damage the enamel, some harsher abrasives may cause damage over many years. If dentin or cementum is exposed (due to recession, for example), these tooth structures can be more quickly worn down and damaged by harsher whitening toothpastes. 

Whitening strips and carbamide peroxide gels: Peroxides and carbamide peroxide gels work intrinsically by entering micro-fractures in the teeth. They don't use surfactants or abrasives but work by releasing oxygen within the micro-fractures, loosening and bubbling stains from within the teeth. Though they don't generally cause harm to the enamel, dentin, or cementum, whitening gels often cause tissue and tooth sensitivity. Usually the sensitivity is worst when the product is being applied and dissipates quickly when the product has been removed. No long-term sensitivity is related to using conventional whitening gels.

Factors that affect the speed and effectiveness of whitening products:

  • Concentration of whitening agent
  • Type of whitening agent
  • Proper use of product
  • Time

How To Whiten Your Teeth Naturally

how to whiten your teethOne of the most hotly debated topics in holistic dentistry is how to whiten your teeth naturally

One of the most hotly debated topics in holistic dentistry is how to whiten your teeth naturally. There are seemingly endless claims and home remedies bouncing around the Internet, almost all of which are pulled out of thin air. I have heard everything ranging from swishing with cow urine to rubbing banana peels on your teeth and brushing with abrasive table salt.

Most of these methods are more sensational than they are effective, and many are actually harmful to the teeth. 

However, there are definitely natural ways to whiten your teeth that have a scientific basis and are as effective as conventional whitening methods. Generally natural methods are very inexpensive, do no harm to the tooth structure, and of course contain no chemicals or unnatural ingredients that may be present in conventional whitening products.

How To Whiten Your Teeth Naturally:

  • Activated coconut charcoal
  • Coconut oil pulling
  • Baking soda & hydrogen peroxide

Natural Tooth Whitening Methods: Activated Coconut Charcoal

how to whiten your teethActivated coconut charcoal powder is far and away the best natural tooth whitening method now available

Activated coconut charcoal powder is far and away the best natural tooth whitening method now available.

It's a very effective tooth whitener, is inexpensive, lasts a long time, and is widely available. Plus activated coconut charcoal is extremely good for helping to maintain overall oral health.

Activated coconut charcoal latches onto toxins in the body and swiftly removes them. Because it is completely expelled by the body with absolutely no side effects, it is often used in cases of food poisoning.

There are no side effects, it's completely non-toxic and natural, and frankly it starts working the very first time you use it. I started using activated coconut charcoal and noticed a huge difference in my mouthfeel and the whiteness of my teeth within one use.

Increasingly it is being used to whiten teeth and absorb toxins in the oral environment that can contribute to gum diseaseoral cancer, and systemic diseases like diabetes. There's nothing else like it that I've found that's as effective.

How to whiten your teeth with activated coconut charcoal powder:

how to whiten your teethThe longer the activated charcoal is held and swished around in the mouth, the better the results will be
  • Slightly dampen a clean soft-bristled toothbrush (that you don't mind staining) with warm water. Often people will use a toothbrush designated just to activated charcoal, and another brush for use with toothpaste
  • Dip the damp toothbrush bristles into the activated coconut charcoal powder. All you need is a dusting on the tips of the bristles to effectively clean the whole mouth
  • Gently and methodically massage the gums and gum line and all surfaces of each tooth throughout the mouth
  • Swish with the charcoal that you used for brushing for as long as you can to absorb toxins in the gums, teeth, and oral tissues
  • When you're done, don't spit, but rather let the activated charcoal and saliva gently drop from the mouth into the sink. This will help avoid black splatter all over the sink
  • Rinse mouth with water and brush with water to remove all remaining granules. Using a Waterpik the remove granules between your teeth is ideal.
  • Scrape tongue to remove toxins and charcoal from tongue surface

Brush and swish with activated coconut charcoal powder once daily or a few times a week for best results. Remember: the longer the activated charcoal is held and swished around in the mouth, the better the results will be.

Natural Tooth Whitening Methods: Coconut Oil Pulling

how to whiten your teethThough it is effective, oil pulling is no longer the optimal method of natural teeth whitening

Read just about any article on how to whiten your teeth naturally and you'll invariably come across the oil pulling debate. Much of the holistic dental community accepts oil pulling based on peer reviewed studies, research, and firsthand experience. In fact oil pulling is one of the most ancient Ayurvedic techniques related to maintaining oral health. It latches onto toxins in much the same way as activated coconut charcoal does, releasing them from the body.

As an oral health professional who has read about it extensively (and scientifically), tried it, and had patients who use it, I can attest that oil pulling does work effectively for both whitening the teeth and in helping to maintain good oral and systemic health. However, though it is effective, it is no longer the optimal method of natural teeth whitening. Activated coconut charcoal powder is much faster, more efficient, and is much easier to use than oil pulling for the purpose of whitening. This does not diminish the hugely positive effects of oil pulling overall, but does somewhat make it obsolete for the whitening factor.

Disclaimer: Many people make claims that oil pulling can fix and heal everything in the mouth exclusive of professional dental care and ongoing check ups. In my opinion it is a good daily or weekly habit that supports good oral health by removing oral toxins. However, it should never be the sole method of cleaning the teeth, and should not be a substitute for ongoing professional dental care, whether conventional or holistic. Learn how to whiten your teeth with coconut oil below.

How to whiten your teeth by coconut oil pulling:

  • Oil pulling (click to learn about the science behind it)
  • Place about 1 tsp. of fresh coconut oil in the mouth
  • Vigorously swish the oil around the mouth and through the teeth
  • Swish for 15-20 minutes
  • Do not swallow the oil
  • If it gets to be too much liquid in your mouth, spit 1/3 of it out and keep swishing
  • Spit into trash can after swishing is completed
  • Oil must be mixed with dish soap if discarded in the sink or toilet; this will break the oil up so that it doesn't cause pipe clogs later
  • Oil should be a milky white color when it's discarded
  • Swish daily or weekly for best results
  • You should notice results within a few uses, but most people have a clean mouth feeling right away upon first use

Natural Tooth Whitening Methods: Baking Soda & Hydrogen Peroxide 

how to whiten your teethSodium bicarbonate is naturally secreted in the saliva, acting to buffer (raise) the mouth's pH

For some reason there is a lot of debate in conventional dentistry circles about the effectiveness of baking soda. However, it's widely known that sodium bicarbonate is naturally secreted in the saliva, acting to buffer (raise) the mouth's pH. It plays an enormous positive role in the deterrence of oral bacteria, cavities, and oral toxins and pathogens.

Very much like hydrogen peroxide, baking soda is also known for whitening teeth. Research has shown its effectiveness, but also that it can cause damage to the teeth over time. Minimize the damage by using a more runny slurry mixture, and by limiting use of this method to just a few times per week.

  • I recommend only occasional use of this method (3-4 times/week maximum) due to the possibility of micro-abrasions to the enamel and burning of the oral tissues over time

How to whiten your teeth using baking soda & hydrogen peroxide:

  • Put about 1 tsp. of baking soda in the palm of one hand
  • Pour a few capfuls of 3% food grade hydrogen peroxide into a small cup
  • Dip toothbrush bristles in hydrogen peroxide, then the baking soda
  • Keep adding peroxide as needed to make a thin slurry
  • Gently brush the teeth and gum line using circular motions (not back and forth)
  • Swish with the mixture to help remove toxins from the mouth
  • Spit mixture into the sink and rinse mouth with water 
  • Repeat a maximum of 3-4 times weekly to avoid damage to oral tissues and teeth

Home | Oral Health Care InformationThe Truth About Fluoride | Waterpik Facts: Why Everyone Should Use One | Tooth Nerve Pain | The Truth About Reversing Cavities | Oral Cancer Symptoms | How To Whiten Your Teeth Naturally | Natural Canker Sore Remedies | The Causes Of Bleeding Gums | Dental Health Care In Diabetics | Natural Remedies For Gum Disease | The Importance Of Saliva | Natural Dry Mouth Remedies | The Science Behind Oil Pulling | The Science Behind Ionic Toothbrushes | Toxic Teeth: The Mercury Amalgam Debate | Teeth Grinding: Causes And Natural Solutions | Is Xylitol Better Than Fluoride?

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