And it’s also true that the Internet is going to tell you that all these things work, when they probably don’t. That’s why we’re taking the time to sort out some of the solutions for you.
Good for Oral Health
None of the at-home whitening treatments have really been shown to make a huge difference in the whiteness of your teeth, but some of them do seem to be good for your health and might also provide a small amount of whitening.
Oil Pulling: In this technique, supposedly based on ancient Indian medicine, you’re supposed to swish some kind of vegetable oil in your teeth for 20 minutes. Coconut is the favorite du jour, but sesame oil has more research to support it. This vigorous swishing may or may not whiten your teeth, but it has been shown that it may improve your oral health by removing bacteria that your toothbrush can’t reach.
Peroxide Rinse: Another option for a whitening rinse is just taking the kind of peroxide you use for cleaning cuts and scrapes and using it for a mouth rinse. Your gums are sensitive to peroxide, so you have to make the solution weak. Start with a 3% solution and dilute it by half.
The active ingredient is the same as what we use in the office, only 1/20th the strength or less, so it will actually whiten your teeth. It just takes a while. In the meantime, it will also help kill off bacteria associated with gum disease.
Bad for Your Teeth
Unfortunately, there are also home whitening remedies that aren’t just ineffective, they can be very damaging to your teeth.
Strawberries and Baking Soda: This is the home whitening remedy that’s actually been researched in a scientific study. Home remedies claim that if you brush with this formula three times a day, you’ll get whiter teeth, but a study showed that it not only didn’t whiten teeth, it resulted in significant erosion of dental enamel.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Although it hasn’t been studied the same way, apple cider vinegar is probably worse than strawberries. That’s because vinegar is basically acid, which, in this case, has a pH of about 3. How acidic is that? Well, anything with a pH of 5 or less will erode your teeth, and each pH point represents a factor of 10 in acid strength, so 3 is 100 times more acidic than 5.
It’s basically like rinsing your teeth with Diet Sprite. In other words, not advised.
The tricky thing about this type of whitening is that it might actually seem to be effective at first. The acid will dissolve stains along with your enamel, so your teeth might seem to get whiter, but soon the enamel will get too thin and you’ll start seeing the dentin, the yellowish layer under the enamel. And your teeth will never be white again unless we cover them with dental crowns.
A Big Mess
There are some teeth whitening recipes that are unlikely to harm your teeth, but they can be very messy (and they’re not going to whiten your teeth).
Activated Charcoal: A teeth whitening approach that’s gotten popular recently is activated charcoal. This is commonly used as a poison neutralizer, and it works by trapping the organic molecules of poisons in the tiny voids in the charcoal. Since teeth stains are mostly caused by organic molecules in the enamel, it makes sense that activated charcoal might work for tooth stains.
Charcoal comes as a powder, and mixing the charcoal into a paste can make a big mess. The good news is that charcoal is soft, so it won’t harm your teeth, though it could irritate your gums. And it’s hard to get it out of your teeth.
Turmeric: This yellow spice stains everything it touches, though some would have you believe that it actually whitens your teeth. It probably doesn’t. At best, it might do some abrasive whitening (which is not recommended, because it wears away your enamel), but most likely it’s just a trick of the mind, where you think your teeth are whiter because you’ve just covered them with a dark, yellow substance, then cleaned it off.
In addition, turmeric stains everything it touches, so you’ll probably have to clean up your sink, and maybe throw out any clothes you were wearing.