Have your pearly whites lost their luster because of dingy gray or yellow stains? Stained teeth can occur as we age, but some common foods, drinks, and even mouthwashes can stain teeth. Do-it-yourself remedies can help whiten teeth, and avoiding substances that stain teeth can stop further discoloration. Nowadays it has become an issue to restore the smile and teeth whiteness. With adequate care and precautions, you can obviously make it happen.
Everyone wants to know the secret tricks of how to whiten teeth. Bright, yellow-free tusks have been one of the most universally inspirational ideals for ages. The good news is that there are distinct factors that lead to discoloration, and ruling them out early can keep your teeth brilliant for a long time. Most people get to these tricks too late, long after the damage has been done.
What is tooth discoloration?
Your teeth can become discolored by stains on the surface or by changes inside the tooth. There are three main types of tooth discoloration:
Extrinsic — This occurs when the outer layer of the tooth (the enamel) is stained. Coffee, wine, cola or other drinks or foods can stain teeth. Smoking also causes extrinsic stains.
Intrinsic — This is when the inner structure of the tooth (the dentin) darkens or gets a yellow tint. You can get this type of discoloration if:
- You had too much exposure to fluoride during early childhood.
- Your mother used tetracycline antibiotics during the second half of pregnancy.
- You used tetracycline antibiotics when you were 8 years old or younger.
- You had trauma that affected a tooth when you were a young child. A fall, for example, may damage the developing permanent tooth.
- You had trauma in a permanent tooth, and internal bleeding discolored the tooth.
- Age-related — This is a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Dentin naturally yellows over time. The enamel that covers the teeth gets thinner with age, which allows the dentin to show through. Foods and smoking also can stain teeth as people get older. Finally, chips or other injuries can discolor a tooth, especially when the pulp has been damaged.
Causes of teeth discoloration
Consumption of certain fruits and beverages discolor the teeth
Coffee, tea, colas, wines, and certain fruits and vegetables (for example, apples and potatoes) can stain your teeth. It depends upon what you eat in order to maintain the color of your teeth. If you tend to consume coffee or tea more, the color of your teeth will gradually lose its whiteness.
Smoking discolors the teeth
Smoking can greatly discolor teeth. But chewing tobacco isn’t much safer. Any tobacco product will have devastating effects on teeth.
Poor dental hygiene causes discoloration
This one probably won’t come as a shock, but failing to brush and floss on a daily basis is one of the major contributors to tooth discoloration. When you don’t brush and/or floss regularly, this allows bacteria and food particles to stick around in your mouth and cling to your teeth, which can lead to tooth stains. Pair poor dental hygiene habits with any of the other factors on this list, and you’ve just created an oral environment particularly primed for stains.
Tooth decay causes discoloration
The early stages of cavity development result in the formation of white spots or patches on enamel tooth surfaces. The affected area will loose its glossy sheen and on close inspection may show evidence of surface damage.
As the decay process advances, the involved area typically takes on a tan, brown or black coloration. The lesion itself may first become noticeable as a small dark spot or blemish that grows in size over time (typically months to years), frequently involving obvious tooth destruction.
Certain medications cause discoloration of teeth
The antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline are known to discolor teeth when given to children whose teeth are still developing (before age 8). Mouth rinses and washes containing chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can also stain teeth. Antihistamines (like Benadryl), antipsychotic drugs, and drugs for high blood pressure also cause teeth discoloration.
Environmental factors also affect the tooth color
Excessive fluoride either from environmental sources (naturally high fluoride levels in water) or from excessive use (fluoride applications, rinses, toothpaste, and fluoride supplements taken by mouth) can cause teeth discoloration.
How Can I Prevent Teeth Discoloration?
By making a few simple lifestyle changes, you may be able to prevent teeth discoloration. For example, if you are a coffee drinker and/or smoker, consider cutting back or quitting all together. Also, improve your dental hygiene by brushing, flossing, and using a mouthwash daily, and getting your teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist every 6 months.
How to Treat and Prevent Tooth Stains
Although some tooth discoloration is inevitable, there are ways to prevent it. Avoid consuming foods and drinks that contribute to teeth discoloration on a regular basis. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco, and practice excellent oral hygiene. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any medications you’re taking result in tooth staining as a side effect. And have dental X-rays taken during your exams to check for any signs of trauma.
If you already have tooth discoloration and brushing doesn’t seem to work, there are ways to help you get rid of it. Thanks to cosmetic dentistry, there are several options for removing or covering tooth stains:
Ultrasonic Cleaning — Now a standard form of professional dental cleaning, ultrasonic vibrations are used to remove some extrinsic stains caused by a buildup of calculus. Although it won’t change the color of your teeth, an ultrasonic dental cleaning can be performed during regular dental visits to limit tooth stains.
Teeth Whitening — To completely lighten your teeth, you can try teeth whitening. Your dentist can provide you with teeth whitening trays to wear at home. These trays are formed from a mold of your teeth, and hold a gel containing the active agent peroxide. Worn daily, at-home bleaching trays can whiten teeth in 1-2 weeks.
Laser Teeth Whitening — Like teeth whitening, laser teeth whitening uses a peroxide gel to lighten teeth. But laser teeth whitening is done in the dental office in about an hour. After the gel is applied to teeth, a laser uses heat to activate the teeth whitening agents, with excellent results in a shorter amount of time.
Dental Veneers — In the cases where whitening just won’t work, veneers can completely cover tooth discoloration. Dental veneers are wafer-like tooth coverings often made of porcelain that are cemented onto teeth. Porcelain dental veneers are also perfect for broken teeth or slightly crooked teeth.
Despite some reported sensitivity, all of these procedures are safe and effective in treating teeth discoloration when administered by a dental professional. Over-the-counter bleaching agents are also available, with varied results. Some whitening toothpastes may help, but they will not be able to remove intrinsic stains. Regardless, you don’t want to spend all that money fixing your teeth just to go back to bad habits — proper oral hygiene is needed to maintain the results of your cosmetic dental procedure.
Simple Ways to Naturally Whiten Your Teeth at Home
1. Try oil pulling for white teeth
Oil pulling is a traditional Indian folk remedy meant to improve oral hygiene and remove toxins from the body. The practice involves swishing oil around in your mouth to remove bacteria, which can turn into plaque and cause your teeth to look yellow. Traditionally, Indians used sunflower or sesame oil for oil pulling, but any oil will work. Coconut oil is a popular choice because it has a pleasant taste and offers many additional health benefits . Coconut oil is also high in lauric acid, which is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria. A few studies have shown that daily oil pulling effectively reduces bacteria in the mouth, along with plaque and gingivitis. Streptococcus mutans is one of the primary types of bacteria in the mouth that cause plaque and gingivitis. One study found that daily swishing with sesame oil significantly reduced Streptococcus mutans in saliva in as little as one week.
Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies to prove that oil pulling whitens your teeth. However, it’s a safe practice and definitely worth a try. Many people claim their teeth are whiter and brighter after regular oil pulling. To oil pull, put 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and push and pull the oil through your teeth. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you may need to wait a few seconds for it to melt. Continue the oil pulling for a full 15–20 minutes. Be sure to spit the coconut oil into a toilet or trash can, as it could return to solid form once in your drain pipes and cause a clog. Unlike many other tooth whitening methods, coconut oil pulling does not expose your teeth to acid or other ingredients that erode the enamel. This means it is safe to do daily.
2. Some tooth whitening kit do help discoloration
A home tooth-whitening kit contains carbamide peroxide, a bleach that can remove both deep and surface stains and actually changes your natural tooth color. If you have coffee-stained teeth, a tooth-bleaching kit can help. With some kits, you apply a peroxide-based gel (with a small brush) to the surface of your teeth. In other kits, the gel is in a tray that molds to the teeth. The tray must be worn daily (for 30 to 45 minutes) for a week or more.
3. Go for regular dental appointments for teeth whiteness
Before you go out and buy a pack of Whitestrips or set up an appointment for hyper-whitening with your local dentist, make sure everything else is taken care of, health-wise. “You want to ascertain that there’s no underlying disease before you do a program of whitening, and you also want to make sure you have a thorough cleaning so you can get the best benefits,” says dentist Dr. Jeanne Strathearn. In other words, you want to be working with as white a canvas as you can. And, duh, visit your dentist at least twice a year.
4. Brushing after each food in take helps in teeth whiteness
The best way to whiten your teeth naturally — though maybe not always the easiest — is to simply brush your teeth with an appropriate toothpaste after eating or drinking something. This takes a lot of persistence and can even be kind of difficult depending on where you are at the time of eating (such as work or school).
Avoiding smoking cigarettes, drinking too much coffee and/or soda, improving your oral hygiene overall, and eating a healthy diet can all also help prevent yellow teeth. If you do regularly drink staining beverages, do so through a straw and try to cut back. Try to drink more plain water after eating or drinking something staining or acidic to help reduce the negative effects.
Most food does not stain teeth, but if you are a coffee drinker or if you smoke, you can pretty much count on having discolored teeth over time due to thinning enamel and/or staining. If this is the case, then having your teeth cleaned every three months may be in order, besides trying some of the natural remedies listed here.
5. Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide helps in teeth whitening
Hydrogen peroxide is an antibacterial agent and works great as a total mouth and gum cleaner and keeps the mouth free of germs. A good oral mouth rinse can be made using hydrogen peroxide; use half water and half hydrogen peroxide, swish around in your mouth for about one minute, and then rinse. Research shows hydrogen peroxide keeps breath fresh by eliminating bad bacteria due to acting as a natural antiseptic/antibacterial agent. According to the Dentistry Network, it has many uses in dentistry today, with its most common application to whiten your teeth. It’s also capable of providing natural protection against gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis.
For another way to use this product, mix a small amount of hydrogen peroxide with a small amount of baking soda in order to make a paste that helps remove more plaque from teeth. A review published in the Journal of Dentistry found that in five controlled clinical studies on over 270 subjects those brushing with a baking soda dentifrice (toothpaste or powder) showed greater enhanced plaque removal effectiveness than those who used the non-baking soda tooth cleaning products. Results from measurements of patients’ tooth surfaces (such as facial, lingual, proximal and gingival surfaces) also demonstrated statistically greater reductions in mean plaque scores when using baking soda compared to when using baking soda-free products.
To use these products safely to whiten your teeth, brush your teeth as usual first, making sure to reach the back of the teeth too. Baking soda is a gritty substance like sandpaper, so be careful that you have enough hydrogen peroxide mixed in with the soda — because if you don’t it can very well scrub the enamel right off your teeth. This is a big problem, considering enamel does not grow back. The paste should not be gritty at all; in fact, it should be a runnier paste than a stiff paste. Rub the paste onto your teeth for about 30 seconds, then rinse well. For guidance when using baking soda on your teeth, you can also refer to these directions for making homemade remineralizing toothpaste or homemade probiotic toothpaste.
As an alternative to baking soda, you can use white kaolin clay. Mix the kaolin with a bit of water and apply to your teeth about once a week (don’t overuse to avoid damaging your teeth’s enamel). Rinse well. You may want to try blending in a few drops of clove oil or peppermint oil to improve the flavor. Plus these oils also have antimicrobial properties.
6. Activated charcoal helps maintain teeth whiteness
Activated charcoal is another very popular at home alternative teeth whitening strategy. Some say it does wonders. Others argue that it doesn’t work.(1) We think much of the disparity of opinions could be that those who say activated charcoal doesn’t work expect charcoal to work like their commercial whitening strips (aka overnight). Remember the marathon,Similar to oil pulling, it makes sense how activated charcoal would draw stains out of the teeth.
After all, activated charcoal is used internally when one suspects a recent case of food poisoning. In fact, we always carry a bottle of activated charcoal capsules when traveling in case of the risk of food poisoning from eating out while on the road.
Potential risks of daily use of activated charcoal?
However, we do have some concerns about potential problems that may exist from regular use of activated charcoal as a whitening tooth powder. You see, the reason activated charcoal works on food poisoning is because it binds up whatever it comes into contact with. Warnings exist regarding the internal use of activated charcoal as activated charcoal can interfere with absorption of medications as well as vitamins and minerals.
One of the reasons we brush our teeth is to increase the saliva in our mouths to provide our teeth the necessary remineralization that occurs from contact with lots of saliva. However, if we brush with activated charcoal on a daily basis, our concern is the charcoal’s binding ability will tie up the minerals necessary and inhibit this important remineralizing action of saliva.
So, we consider brushing with activated charcoal safe so long as you use it sparingly or perhaps for 1-2 weeks to whiten your teeth. We don’t encourage using activated charcoal in the mouth on a daily basis until further research shows that doing so doesn’t inhibit remineralization.
7. Apple cider vinegar usage for teeth whitening
Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as a disinfectant and natural cleaning product. Acetic acid, which is the main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar, effectively kills bacteria. The antibacterial property of vinegar is what makes it useful for cleaning your mouth and whitening your teeth. One study performed on cow teeth found that apple cider vinegar does have a bleaching effect on teeth. However, they also found that vinegar may soften the teeth.
The acetic acid in vinegar has the potential to erode the enamel on your teeth. For this reason, you should not use apple cider vinegar every day. You should also limit the amount of time that apple cider vinegar is in contact with your teeth. To use it as a mouthwash, dilute it with water and swish it around in your mouth for several minutes. Make sure to rinse your mouth with plain water afterwards.
8. Strawberries and other healthy fruits for teeth whiteness
Rumor has it that some celebrities whiten their teeth with healthy foods like strawberries. Who would have thought? Model Tyra Banks even tried this tooth-whitening trick on her show. She simply mashed up about four or five strawberries and rubbed this yummy mixture all over her teeth, then rinsed well afterward.
Berries contain many beneficial antioxidants and other compounds that can benefit the health of your teeth, but they’re not the only ones that keep your teeth looking great as you age. The quality of your diet overall is highly tied to the health of your teeth. Foods that can help keep your gums and teeth strong, plus free from diseases or signs of aging, include teeth-strengthening foods like:
- sources of calcium like yogurt or raw milk
- foods high in magnesium and potassium like leafy green veggies, apples or pears
- cage-free eggs
- sweet potatoes, carrots or squash
- nuts like walnuts or almonds
To take advantage of these healthy foods and to help whiten your teeth without putting chemicals inside your mouth, try making this homemade teeth whitener recipe. It combines stain-fighting ingredients like baking soda, lemon essential oil and mashed berries.
Key Points on How to Whiten Teeth Naturally
- Teeth become less white (yellow or brown colored) due to factors like aging, thinning enamel/erosion of the surface of teeth, a poor diet, drinking coffee/tea, smoking and suffering from dry mouth.
- Teeth-whitening products can damage the teeth by removing too much enamel. Constant application of whitening strips has been shown to cause erosion and negative effects on dental health.
- Ways you can naturally whiten your teeth, while also protecting enamel, include using apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide; coconut oil pulling; eating a healthy diet; brushing and flossing; and trying activated charcoal.
Can Even Natural Teeth Whitening Harm Your Teeth?
One thing to be aware of when it comes to whitening teeth is that certain natural whiteners can eradicate enamel. Some teeth whiteners are just not a good idea to use, especially lemon juice. While the lemon peel is actually a good, healthy way to whiten teeth, the juice itself is simply too strong. The acid in the actual lemon juice does great for bleaching clothes, hair and getting stains out of furniture, but you wouldn’t want to put lemon juice on your teeth as a mouth gum cleaner every single day. Eventually, the acid creates tiny holes in your teeth, and then every kind of staining type food will seep into these tiny holes and remain there. The acid from the lemons is so strong it just eventually wears away the teeth, causing cavities.
To avoid overdoing teeth whitening, start gradually, only use a small amount of any product, follow directions and pay attention to signs of worsening sensitivity.