Many at-home teeth whitening tricks people swear by are in fact bad for your teeth, and others are just odd. Brushing your teeth with wood ash? I’ll pass.
But it’s understandable that folks would want to do it themselves because modern dentistry options can be pricey. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists estimates we spend about $2.75 billion on whitening and other vanity procedures each year.
In-office bleaching can cost in the thousands. Even the take-home programs will cost you about $500 for custom-made trays. Then there are the booths at the mall promising whiter teeth in just 20 minutes. Those will set you back $100.
Teeth whitening products take up an entire section at most major drugstores. Crest whitening strips will cost you about $40. Brightening gels are about $30, and that’s doesn’t include the trays. An at-home system from Sephora will run about $200.
Some teeth whitening toothpastes cost $6 or more a tube. And some of them are too abrasive for the enamel of our teeth. The Los Angeles Times reported on a study of 26 whitening toothpastes published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry:
- Crest White Vivid ranked 17th in terms of cleaning but was the fourth-most abrasive. Anything with an RDA (relative dentin abrasion) score above 100 is generally considered highly abrasive, and anything above 150 is considered potentially damaging to enamel. Crest White Vivid scored above 200.
- Rembrandt Intense Stain was only mildly abrasive (RDA about 90), but it was also in the middle of the pack in terms of cleaning power. The toothpaste with the top marks for stain removal — Ultrabrite Advanced Whitening from Colgate — was also one of the most abrasive, reaching an RDA of about 260. The study didn’t include either Crest 3D White Advanced Vivid or Rembrandt’s Deeply White.
Some popular DIY methods also get bad reviews, including Dr. Oz’s recommendation to place a paste of baking soda and lemon juice on your teeth for a minute. A quick check with your favorite search engine will show that many dentists warn that acid from the lemon can damage the enamel of your teeth.
Let’s take a look at some other do-it-yourself whitening methods.
Brush with baking soda
MDHealth says brushing your teeth with baking soda for a minute or two is not only a great option because it’s easy, but also for these reasons:
First, brushing with baking soda polishes teeth and gives them a whiter appearance. Second, baking soda fights bad breath. Finally, baking soda is reasonably price and it can be used for multiple chores around the home, making it great to have around at all times. In fact, compared to other teeth whiteners, baking soda is the cheapest on the market – one regular-sized box can be used for well over 100 brushings.
It too should be used with caution, MDHealth says. Do not use it more than twice a week to avoid damaging tooth enamel.
You can simply eat them, smash them onto your teeth or make a little paste with some baking soda. New York dentist Adina Carrel suggested this recipe in Health magazine:
Crush the strawberry to a pulp, then mix with the baking soda until blended. Use a soft toothbrush to spread the mixture onto your teeth. Leave on for five minutes, then brush thoroughly with toothpaste to remove the berry–baking soda mix. Rinse. (A little floss will help get rid of any strawberry seeds.) Carrel says you can apply once a week.
SheKnows offers this advice:
Don’t use this method too often (consider once or twice per month), as it may be too harsh on your tooth enamel if used too much. Talk to your dentist if you have concerns or to determine what whitening method is best for you.
That’s great advice. Don’t begin a whitening regimen of any type without consulting your dentist first. And remember that a bright and healthy smile starts with regular cleanings and checkups.
Avoid foods that cause stains
A frugal approach to white teeth is to avoid those foods that are known to discolor teeth. WebMD says a food that stains a white cotton T-shirt will also likely stain your teeth. Some examples:
- Red wine.
- Dark teas.
- Soy sauce.
- Tomato sauce.
If these are foods and beverages that you enjoy, be sure to brush your teeth or at least rinse out your mouth after indulging.
Certain foods you eat can help clean your teeth. WebMD suggests munching on these:
Those foods cause more saliva, which is a natural tooth cleanser. It not only washes away any residual food but also neutralizes acids that cause tooth decay. “With teeth, more saliva is better all around,” adds WebMD.
And be sure to floss every day.