There’s no denying the appeal of a dazzling white smile. You can’t open a magazine or go online without being bombarded with images of celebrities with beautiful white smiles that we all want to emulate. For many people, the only option for whitening their teeth comes from pharmacy solutions promising to remove stains and reveal whiter teeth. Unfortunately, these kinds of toothpaste, mouthwashes and dental whitening strips have only been proven to be effective in maintaining good oral health and often have little to no effect on the shade of our teeth.
Tooth whitening is a complex process that involves penetrating the layers of enamel and changing the colour of the dentin below. When we eat everyday things such as food, tea and coffee, a layer of pellicle film develops over the enamel. While removing this with tooth whitening products may help to restore some of the shine, it is only by changing the colour of the dentin that we will be able to see a considerable change in the whiteness.
In the past few years, the demand for cosmetic dentistry treatments has skyrocketed. The process of chemically whitening the teeth using hydrogen peroxide was first discovered in the 1980s when oral surgeons would use peroxide gel as an antiseptic treatment for the gums. It was soon noticed that the side-effect of this treatment was that it whitened the teeth. Dentists then developed specialist trays that would allow for direct application of the gel. More recently, the process has been accelerated and immediate results can be achieved by using light to speed up the process.
While these options may provide effective and attractive results, many are still concerned about the safety of this procedure. The side-effects are very unpredictable and can vary wildly across different patients. Some patients report uneven whitening resulting in unsightly blotches on their teeth, while others are left with increased sensitivity. In extreme cases, patients report stabbing pain and even chemical burns on their gums which can lead to cosmetic surgery claims. For anyone worried about the potential side effects, natural remedies might be the most attractive option. Before spending hundreds on cosmetic dentistry, try these natural at-home methods.
- Baking Soda: This is the active ingredient in many kinds of whitening toothpaste and can be used effectively on its own as a paste. When mixed into a paste with a bit of water, the paste releases oxygen which helps to remove stains using the slightly abrasive texture. Brushing with a paste of baking soda and water can help to keep your teeth extra clean and sparkling.
- Coconut Oil: Brushing your teeth with oil might sound horrible, but oil pulling is actually a very popular method of ridding your mouth of the bacteria that cause plaque and stains to build up in your mouth. To try this method, simply melt a little bit of coconut oil in your mouth and then swish and ‘pull’ the oil through your teeth. This method cannot be used by children as they may be at risk of swallowing or choking on the oil.
- Activated Charcoal: This isn’t the stuff that you find in the bottom of the fireplace. Activated charcoal is a messy but highly effective method of whitening the teeth. It is very absorbent and lightly abrasive, which makes it perfect for lifting and removing stains from your teeth.
- Manuka honey: It might seem counter-intuitive to brush your teeth with something so sweet, but manuka honey has been proven to have antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. Manuka honey has been proven to be just as effective as alcohol mouthwash, and it can be diluted in water to make it less sweet.
- Turmeric: This spice is famous for turning everything it touches a vibrant yellow colour, so it might seem odd to try to use it for whitening the teeth. It has antibiotic, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory benefits that will keep your gums healthier than ever and help to keep your teeth free of stains. It might be scary to try the first time, but this is an ancient method that has been used for many years.
If you’re just looking to whiten your teeth or just improve your dental hygiene there are many alternatives you can try before going down the expensive cosmetic dentistry route. To avoid the risks and unpredictable results, it’s always worth trying the natural methods before you commit to anything irreversible.
Rebecca Harper is a freelance writer living in London. Since studying English at university, she pursued a career in journalism with a focus on health, beauty and lifestyle. She now works alongside TJL, a cosmetic surgery claims solicitors in Manchester.”