White teeth are considered beauty standard for over centuries. And it’s very rightfully said that your smile speaks volumes about your confidence. Teeth bleaching is the most sought-after treatment in a dental office.
Some people, in spite of brushing many times a day, have yellow teeth. Some develop stains on their teeth through habits like smoking and drinking excessive tea and coffee. These stains, discolorations, yellow shade of teeth can be corrected by bleaching the enamel of teeth.
Currently many whitening gels, trays, etc. are popular amongst the youth. With such things being promoted by celebrities on social media, more and more people are inclining towards these bleaching products without knowing the truth about them. In the pursuit of getting the whitest of white teeth, people are destroying their enamel and doing some permanent damage to their teeth (1).
Instead, why not opt for natural methods to whiten your teeth? Why run behind paid promotions and spend hard earned money on unapproved products when you can get white teeth by the ingredients present in your kitchen. Practices such as oil pulling, eating fruits rich in malic acid like strawberries, brushing with mild abrasives like baking soda and kaolin clay can whiten the surface of your tooth naturally.
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a popular procedure, especially amongst the middle-age population. It is less time consuming, reasonably easy, and a comparatively inexpensive procedure. Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that helps lighten the stain and discoloration on the tooth surface. The main bleaching agent is the peroxide. It could be either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. This agent is either in a gel form or a liquid form.
The bleaching agent used can be activated chemically or through the light. Common over the counter product available in the market is bleaching kits which contain a higher amount of abrasives and peroxide. These products can cause chemical burns and damage to enamel and dentin, leading to severe teeth sensitivity issues. Teeth bleaching should be done under a licensed dental practitioner only.
What causes yellow teeth?
The only way a tooth naturally turns yellow is when it ages. For understanding, this concept lets just have a quick overlook over the morphology of our teeth. Our teeth are made up of an outer protective layer and enamel. Enamel further has an inside layer called dentin layer. Our enamel is essentially whiter than dentin.
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As a person ages, the enamel slowly wears off, highlighting the inner yellow dentin layer. This thinning of enamel is a natural process, and many factors can fasten it (2). Let us go through the factors leading to yellow teeth and stains.
- Smoking cigarettes cause deposits of nicotine, tar, and tobacco on the tooth surface. Heavy smokers have brown to black staining on their teeth surfaces.
- Also, excessive consumption of tea and coffee erodes the enamel of teeth. Tea and coffee contain tannins which are acid polyphenols, and they lead to discolorations and staining of enamel.
- Aerated and carbonated drinks, Soda can cause acid erosion of the enamel layer of the tooth (3).
- Wine tasters have usual staining of their teeth due to regular consumption of wine. Certain fruits like blueberries, Blackberries, pomegranates which are pigmented can cause staining on regular use.
- Acidic fruits, like lemons, citrus fruits, clementines can cause acid erosion of the enamel layer.
- Certain antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline can discolor teeth. Mouth rinses like chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can also cause staining of teeth (4).
- Specific genetic factors also contribute to yellow teeth — excessive fluoride intake during early development.
The practice of teeth whitening
It wasn’t until the 1980s when the dentists noticed that the hydrogen peroxide used while treating gum could bleach the teeth. Many studies were conducted to determine the ideal percentage of hydrogen peroxide and its substitutes. Trays and gels were created for ease of delivery of procedure. With people being profile conscious, teeth whitening is a trending dental practice worldwide.
History of teeth whitening
Evidence of practices for teeth whitening has been found to be 4,000 years old. The Egyptians created a tooth whitening paste by mixing the ground pumice stone and wine vinegar. The mixture was then rubbed on the teeth with the help of twigs. The Romans practiced whitening by combining goat milk with urine. Later people came to know that the ammonia in urine bleached the surface of the tooth.
In those days, there was a norm that your wealthy status is directly proportional to your teeth whiteness. For a substantial period, barbers managed the dental work. They used to fill the teeth using metal files and applied nitric acid to remove stains. This method did more damage than good. The purpose of teeth whitening radically changed when the profession of dentistry emerged substantially in the late 18th century.
Natural methods to whiten teeth
This is a personally tried and tested method, and yes it works wonders. When strawberries are rubbed on the tooth surface, the malic acid present in strawberries mildly bleaches the enamel of the tooth. The best part of this process, other than the rich taste of strawberries, is that it doesn’t harm or erode the enamel. Instead, the process makes the enamel lustrous and clean since the seeds of strawberries can also act as a mild abrasive.
Oil pulling is a well-known Indian remedy that not only improves the oral hygiene but also helps to remove toxic stains from the tooth surface. This is another tried and tested method. Oil pulling is best done with coconut oil as it has rich flavors and numerous other health benefits.
To try this method, use one tablespoon of the oil in your mouth. Squishing oil in our mouth for at least 15-20 minutes a day can remove the plaque deposits on the tooth and give you the sparkling whites. (5) Traditionally, a variety of oils can be used for oil pulling. Some of them include –
- Coconut oil – it has a pleasant taste, and it also offers a wide range of health benefits. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which has the ability to reduce inflammation of the soft tissues and kill bacteria in the mouth.
- Sunflower oil
- Sesame oil – sesame oil has clinically proven its efficacy against Streptococcus mutans which is one of the prime disease-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Baking Soda and peroxide
Baking Soda is popularly known for its bleaching properties, and this is the reason why it is also incorporated in many teeth whitening toothpaste. In addition to its whitening property, baking Soda effectively removes the stains from the tooth surface. Moreover, it helps to provide an alkaline oral environment that inhibits bacterial growth in the mouth.
Many clinical studies have proven effective tooth whitening results with toothpaste that contain baking Soda as compared to a toothpaste that does not contain baking Soda. To make your own baking soda paste, use one teaspoon of baking Soda with two teaspoons of water. Brush with the paste few days in a week. Baking Soda naturally takes a while to show the desired results. (6)
Another effective method of using baking Soda is to combine two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide with one tablespoon of baking Soda. Mix the mixture till it foams and makes a paste. Brush with this paste and let it stand for a minute. Rinse your mouth, and you will experience an overall clean mouth and white teeth.
Apple cider vinegar is an acidic drink with a pH of around 3. Our enamel starts corroding at pH 5.5. So, apple cider vinegar should always be diluted before application on teeth. Apple cider vinegar on regular consumption will prevent plaque formation due to its acetic acid component.
Kaolin clay, especially the white kaolin clay has been proven to have a high cleaning efficacy. The abrasives present in kaolin clay are mild, but at the same time, they have a high ability to remove stains.
Activated charcoal, when brushed on the tooth surface, may help whiten your teeth. Though in the longer run charcoal can abrade the enamel of teeth and cause dentinal hypersensitivity.
Rubbing banana peel
Rubbing the inside of a banana peel on the tooth surface is known to whiten the enamel of the tooth. Tooth whitening with banana happens because of the minerals like potassium, magnesium present in the banana peel. However, there is no clinical evidence to prove the efficacy of banana peel whitening.
Rubbing lemon rind
Rubbing the inside of citrus fruit peels, like that of lemon and oranges will help remove the stains. However, it is advised to reduce the use of lemon rind as it may have the following effects –
- This technique does not work well in whitening the teeth. Moreover, the acidic content of the lemon can cause enamel erosion which reduces the strength of the teeth. Additionally, it causes tooth sensitivity and irritation to the surrounding gums and soft tissues.
- Rubbing orange on the tooth surface can have similar effects on the dental health as that of lemon. This is because orange belongs to the same citrus group of fruits.
Other home remedies to whiten the teeth effectively include –
- Tooth whitening with papaya – papaya fruit contains an abundant amount of papain and bromelain. These enzymes are also found in pineapple and are proven to be very useful natural tooth whiteners.
- Hydrogen peroxide – hydrogen peroxide is an active ingredient used in professional tooth whitening products. However, you can take advantage of this bleaching agent by making a homemade hydrogen peroxide paste. (7)
To make a paste mix hydrogen peroxide and baking Soda with water and brush for one to two minutes, two times in a day for one week. It is advised to use this paste for a short period as continuous use of hydrogen peroxide may cause enamel erosion. Moreover, it can make teeth sensitive to hot or cold food and drinks.
Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash has also shown excellent efficiency in removing tooth stains and improving the shade of the teeth. Always ensure that you are using 1.5% – 3% of the hydrogen peroxide solution as a mouthwash. Higher concentrations can have damaging effects on the tooth surface.
There is a lot of information out there that guides people to whiten teeth naturally at home. However, as useful as it may look, specific home remedies may cause harm to the health of the teeth and gums. Moreover, they show no results of teeth whitening.
How to prevent staining of teeth?
While teeth whitening may be useful to improve the appearance of your smile. It is essential to take precautionary measures to prevent tooth staining. Such measures also help to maintain the longevity of the teeth whitening technique. Some home remedies to whiten the teeth and to avoid tooth stains are as follows –
Maintain good oral hygiene
Tooth brushing is the most effective way of removing the plaque and bacteria from the tooth surface. Dental plaque is a thin biofilm that gives the tooth a yellowish appearance. Poor oral hygiene is considered as a prime culprit for tooth staining.
Use tooth whitening toothpaste rich in hydrogen peroxide, and this can have long term effects on whitening the tooth and removing the stains from the tooth surface. Regular tooth cleaning and polishing is also another way of proper plaque control.
Follow a proper diet
The first step towards preventing tooth staining is to limit the consumption of coffee, tea, berries, and Soda. If you cannot resist these beverages, limit the contact of the drinks with the tooth surface by using a straw.
Additionally, avoid food that is rich in carbohydrate and sugars. These food items stick to the tooth surface and get fermented by the oral bacteria. Such incidents increase the risk of tooth staining and decay.
Switch to a healthy food diet that consists of a rich balance of fruits and vegetables. Calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt maintain an alkaline environment in the mouth and prevent bacterial growth.
Above methods will help you in achieving the desired bright white teeth, but they don’t remove caries or gingivitis or prevent a toothache. Hence, never underestimate the potential of brushing and flossing. Try to incorporate food rich in minerals & calcium, such as cheese, yogurt, nuts, etc., in your diet plan. Avoid smoking, junk foods, and Soda and regularly visit your dentist for a healthy dentition.
Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure, and care should be taken to maintain the health of teeth and gums. Overall, you will be able to prevent dental decay and gingivitis.
Try out the natural methods of tooth whitening at home, also consult your dentist to get more insight into the natural ways of tooth whitening.
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