When you hear about a healthy smile, what comes to mind? People often associate pink gums and white teeth with good dental health, but as you get older, your teeth might take on a yellowish or brownish cast for reasons beyond poor oral care. Your genes or your diet may be to blame, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD).
If getting a brighter, whiter smile is on your to-do list, you have options, from at-home whitening treatments to those at your dentist's office. You might also think of trying a do-it-yourself teeth whitening paste. There are several homemade concoctions you can try, and they'll all compare differently with the results you'd get from a dentist or over-the-counter (OTC) product.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda
Hydrogen peroxide is the active ingredient in many commercial tooth whiteners, including whitening toothpastes such as Colgate Optic White®. Baking soda is also found in a number of toothpastes for its abrasiveness, which helps remove many common stains from your teeth. With that in mind, it stands to reason that hydrogen peroxide mixed with baking soda would make a good teeth whitening paste – but proceed with caution.
If you're looking to try a paste made from hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, first consult with your dentist to ensure your teeth and gums are in good health. Because it is fairly abrasive, Women's Health advises against exposing your teeth to the mixture more than a couple times every few months. Prolonged use of this method can actually weaken the enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity. And of course, make sure you don't swallow any of the peroxide when using the paste.
Whether it's conditioning dry and damaged hair or acting as a natural deodorant, it seems there's nothing coconut oil can't do. Another possible benefit of coconut oil is as a tooth whitener. Although it's been around for centuries, the practice of oil-pulling – which involves swishing coconut oil in your mouth for up to 20 minutes – became the talk of the town in 2014. The benefits of oil-pulling range from cleaning and whitening your teeth to improving your overall health, according to those who have tried it.
But, suggests the American Dental Association (ADA), the practice of oil-pulling has not undergone any extensive examination. Rinsing your mouth with coconut oil probably won't cause you any harm as long as you keep up a good dental care routine, but it also may not make your teeth any whiter.
Activated charcoal is another ingredient that's gotten a bit of a makeover in recent years. Once used primarily to treat poison victims, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you can now find it in a number of skincare products and in supplement form. There are also anecdotal studies of people making a paste out of activated charcoal and water to whiten their teeth.
However, the jury is still out on how effective this charcoal method is as a teeth whitening treatment. There is no research backing up activated charcoal as a bleaching agent, and the ADA has yet to approve it for use as an official tooth whitener. With so many professional oral care products available today, there are better ways to achieve your desired effect.
Along with a professional check-in before trying a homemade teeth whitening paste, remember that a white smile isn't necessarily a healthy smile. Maintain a routine of brushing twice per day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing at least once a day and seeing your dentist for regular checkups. You want whiter teeth, but you also want teeth that are free of decay and gums that are free of disease.