If you've ever eaten a curry or used curry powder when cooking, you've likely come across turmeric. Although turmeric has been used for centuries in cooking, it's only recently gained mainstream attention. Lifestyle bloggers are interested in turmeric for teeth, particularly as a natural tooth whitener. Are the claims of turmeric whitening teeth true?
What Is Turmeric?
Sometimes known as Indian saffron or turmeric root, turmeric is a plant. The part of the plant that people use in cooking and natural medicine is the rhizome, which is a stem that grows underground. Turmeric is related to ginger, and in its fresh form it looks a lot like a knobbly ginger root. One of the more common uses for turmeric is as a primary ingredient in curry powder. It's what gives many curry powders their deep yellow color and adds an earthy, peppery flavor.
You can find turmeric in the spice aisle as a yellow powder, or fresh in the produce section at some supermarkets. It's also sold as a supplement, in pill, capsule, extract or powder form.
Does Turmeric Whiten Teeth?
People are always looking for natural, creative ways to brighten their smile. Health and lifestyle bloggers are looking to turmeric for teeth whitening, but does it work?
As the American Dental Association (ADA) puts it, there's no scientific evidence to show that turmeric whitens teeth. What may trick do-it-yourselfers into thinking turmeric whitens teeth isn't because of the spice itself, but the DIY toothpaste recipe they may add it to. Often, the spice is added to a mixture of baking soda, coconut oil and a dash of mint extract for flavor. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is an abrasive substance, according to the ADA Continuing Education Recognition Program. Baking soda's coarseness may be what's rubbing the stains off the teeth's surface, not the turmeric.
Luckily, turmeric toothpaste isn't likely to harm your teeth. The ADA Continuing Education Recognition Program explains that baking soda is only mildly abrasive, so it shouldn't damage your enamel. You can brush with your DIY turmeric toothpaste the same way you would with a regular toothpaste.
Is There a Benefit to Using Turmeric for Teeth?
You probably can't achieve a whiter smile by brushing with turmeric, but some research suggests the spice may have other oral health benefits. A study from the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine suggests curcumin (the active chemical compound in turmeric responsible for the bright color) might have some benefit in treating gingivitis andperiodontal disease, preventing plaque formation and alleviating dental pain. However, the authors note that further research is needed to determine the right dosage and efficacy of turmeric-based medications and treatments.
While a turmeric toothpaste isn't bad for your teeth, relying solely on a DIY toothpaste that does not contain fluoride or other clinically proven toothpaste ingredients could leave you vulnerable to dental problems. Since you can find reliable whitening toothpastes at your local drugstore, you should probably leave turmeric where it belongs: in your kitchen spice cabinet for use in preparing tasty meals.