image of Woman teeth before and after whiteningTo whiten your teeth naturally, first avoid the dangers that put your smile at risk.

Almost everyone wants to put on a good face when meeting someone new and making a good first impression so learning the secrets to whitening your teeth naturally is completely understandable.

Whether it’s a first date, greeting a customer, a co-worker or your boss, how you look is always on your mind.

You aren’t alone. In fact 28% of people are so self conscious that they totally refuse to smile in pictures according to a recent British Health [BUPA] survey. When asked if there was one single thing they could change about their appearance, 42% said it was their teeth. I’ve seen a few Brits’ teeth and some are in need of better dentistry.

So let’s give you more confidence and start whitening your teeth. It may be all you need to put on that good face.

Let’s start with the easiest thing possible so you don’t have to be squeamish the next time you’re preparing for a photograph.

The Easiest Place To Start

Brush your teeth when you finish eating and drinking, every time. Oh Jeez. I know I sound like your mom talking, but find a mirror and take a careful look at your teeth.

Any signs of plaque? It’s the sticky yellowy-white filmy layer clinging to your teeth and peaking out between. I see it every day with my patients. With some it’s just a smiddgen. With others it looks like leftover linguini and clam sauce. And that’s after they brushed. Or so they said.

My wife worked for a dentist once that would dig out all of the stuff he found and put it on a cracker. Then he would ask his patient if they would eat the cracker served that way. How gross. It doesn’t help to make you feel bad. It’s hard enough to work up enough nerve to see a dentist. You don’t need to be shamed too. Right?

Don’t be embarrassed. It is bacteria though, growing on left-over food. You know how to get rid of it so it’s no big deal. If you’ve got teeth, you’ve got plaque. It grows back every single day. You are not alone.

Zig Ziglar had a handle on the situation as he spoke about movtivation. “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” And the same goes for brushing and good flossing. It’s got to be a daily ritual or you suffer the consequences. Motivate yourself with sticky notes and visual reminders everyday.

image Teeth up close natural whitening

Plaque Makes Your Shiny Teeth Dull

Plaque makes your teeth look more dull and more yellow than they really are. So removing plaque from your teeth is the best first step. It’s easy peasy and the best place to start. Any remaining plaque is the first step in accumulating more stain on your teeth. Why? Because staining foods love plaque.

Are they looking clean, shiny and stain free after brushing? If not, try using a polishing agent with your toothpaste.

image of bentonite-clay

Bentonite clay

Bentonite Clay-A Natural Tooth Polish

Bentonite clay is a great choice for a natural and effective cleaning enhancer. Moisten your super-fine bristle toothbrush, dip it into the micro-pulverized clay powder and brush your teeth. Add a little more powder as needed. Just like with toothpaste, rinse your mouth well with water afterwards.  If it still feels gritty, brush one more time quickly with just water and spit out any excess clay.

Bentonite clay’s gentle abrasiveness aids in removing plaque and surface stain while polishing enamel. Some surface stains will need up to a couple of weeks of regular brushing before you see gleaming results. Smooth, plaque free teeth don’t stain easily. Naturally rough textured teeth accumulate much more stain. If you have these teeth, thank your mom and dad, because its an inherited trait. Even if the surface roughness is inherited, you’ve still got to do the best with what you’ve got.

What Are Your Expectations For Teeth Whitening

Before completing our list of ways to whiten your teeth naturally I need address expectations. What are your expectations? Before you go crazy trying to whiten your teeth, even with the natural ways I’m suggesting, I want you to understand that some teeth just will not whiten very much. Sorry.

What does whitening mean officially?

Whitening your teeth has a very specific meaning, according to the FDA, it means bringing them back to their natural tooth color. It doesn’t mean making them refrigerator white or bathroom sink white. For that, it’s going to take chemicals. Some of the same chemicals that your body uses on a cellular level. I’m speaking of hydrogen peroxide applied to your teeth. You may or may not be comfortable using it on your teeth depending on your level of chemical avoidance. Speak with your holistic dentist to clarify your options.

Some Teeth Will Not Whiten Naturally

Teeth that will not whiten naturally can frustrate you as you try various different remedies. And I don’t want you to get frustrated, so I’ll explain where whitening remedies will likely work and where it is almost pointless to try.

Thin Enamel Causes Yellow Teeth

Teeth with thin enamel don’t appear to whiten very much. Thin enamel doesn’t mask or hide the naturally yellow, second layer of your teeth, known as dentin. What causes thin enamel? There are a variety of causes.

Genetics Are Often Behind Thin Enamel

If you have yellow teeth, family genetics could be responsible. Yup! Give mom and dad a big hug and a kiss for passing on those genes to you. There’s nothing you’ve done wrong, it’s just the way things are. But if you’ve got thin enamel, you are stuck with thin enamel. Some hydrogen peroxide products will penetrate enamel and can brighten the dentin a bit but it takes a long time. Up to a year or more of regular product use is sometimes  what is required.

The reason I want you to know that some teeth just will not whiten much is so you don’t try all sorts of extreme ideas and risk permanent damage to your teeth. Protecting the enamel you do have and avoiding making it any thinner is essential. Ask your holistic dentist what he would recommend.

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Citrus Fruit Can Cause Thin Enamel

Another possible cause of thin enamel is eating a lot of citrus fruit or drinking lots of orange juice. Fruits are healthy right? To be completely honest, it’s a mixed bag. Too much sugar and acid from fruit, with relatively low nutritional value, can cause acid erosion of tooth enamel and root surfaces.

But wait, I thought fruit was healthy for me. Yes, but in moderation, not as the primary food source of your diet.

The American Institue for Cancer Research explains fruits benefits:

Flavonoids, like anthocyanins and quercetin, from citrus and apples, can inhibit inflammation and tumor growth too. They may also be an immune builder, as well as being instrumental in the creation of detoxifying enzymes in the body.

Polyphenols, like ellagic acid and resveratrol, from grapes, wine, berries, citrus fruits and apples, work as natural antioxidants preventing inflammation and may prevent cancer formation.

Fresh fruit is much better than fruit juice. Fruit juices are often loaded with added sugar. Dried fruit has a very high natural sugar percentage by weight feeding plaque growth and acid formation.

So there is that apple a day recommendation. Just remember it contains lots of sugar so clean your teeth. So what can you do?Eat colored vegetables which provide superior nutrition and greatly reduced sugar content.

But Fruit Has Vitamin C, Right?

Yes, you get vitamin C from fruit. But a single serving of broccoli, kale or peppers has more vitamin C than an orange and it comes without enamel thinning citric acid and sugar.

Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit are delicious, because they are sweet, but too much fruit gradually eats away precious enamel.

All acids etch teeth. They dissolve the calcium in teeth and leave them with a roughened enamel surface. Rub your teeth together after eating an orange or after drinking strong lemon water or a cola drink. They’ll feel gritty or chalky and even squeek when you try this.

image of A slice of lemon

A slice of lemon, not a whole lemon, in a glass of water

Is Lemon Water Yellowing Your Teeth?

I know a little lemon juice in water is supposed to improve digestion but don’t get carried away. One of my recent new patients had a 32 oz. water bottle with an entire lemon sliced up and crushed within it. Her complaint was she was having sensitive teeth. She is representative of many “I use just a little lemon juice in my water” patients with decay or cavities and thin enamel.

I could see holes in the enamel on the biting surfaces of all of her molar teeth. She had lost much of her protective enamel on the sides of her teeth as well. It was no wonder she had sensitive teeth.

She said she had started drinking lemon water, a couple of years ago, using a whole lemon sliced every time she filled up her water one liter water bottle. She heard it was good to drink lemon water. But after three to four bottles per day with a fresh lemon in each, acid takes a toll.

I’d recommend only an eighth of a lemon maximum, in one glass of water, once a day. That’s plenty or you’re risking severe enamel loss.

Medical Disorders Can Strip Enamel From Teeth In A Relatively Short Period Of Time

Bulimia Causes Severely Thin Enamel

Eating disorders with binging and purging of stomach contents exposes your teeth to your stomach’s high acid concentration. If identified and diagnosed, the dental destruction can usually be remedied. Delays in diagnosis and treatment causes severe damage that complicates treatment and increases the associated costs. Don’t let Bulimia or other eating disorders go untreated.

Conditions that result in stomach acids contacting teeth cause acid erosion damage. Your stomach contains the same strength acid used to wash white staining from masonry construction. Acid reflux diseases also called GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) create havoc with teeth.

Cola Drinks Stain Your Teeth-Avoid Them

Sugar makes carbonated drinks a perfect meal for cavity causing bacteria in your mouth. You don’t need cavities. And you don’t need the carbonic acid, citric acid and phosphoric acid frequently found in sodas etching your teeth and increasing staining. Cola drinks and other artificially colored sodas work against white teeth so do your best to avoid them. If you can’t, rinse with plain water and swallow it to flush sodas out of your mouth immediately.

The worst thing you can do is to drink sodas, sipping a little at a time, for hours on end. They melt your teeth. Remember as soda acids etch and roughen your enamel it’s thinning it too. And rough enamel attracts even more stain.

Image of Glass With Cola That Can Destroy Your Enamel

Three Reasons Sodas Destroy Your Teeth
Courtesy of: Craig Sommer DDS

Some Staining Is NOT On The Outside

Staining that occurs deep within teeth will not be improved with natural whitening remedies. These stains are call intrinsic stains or stains inside the tooth . Some of these occur as the result of materials implanted within teeth like mercury silver filings.

Mercury Fillings Stain Teeth-Avoid Mercury Fillings

All too often patients ask if the dark discoloration of teeth due to mercury silver fillings will go away if they are replaced. Not always, unfortunately.

Just like silver jewelry tarnishes over time, silver in mercury silver fillings tarnishes or oxidizes too. This tarnish gradually seeps into your teeth, darkening them more and more over time. Even with replacement of fillings using white/tooth colored fillings, a residual gray tone to the teeth still remains. Recommendation: do not have mercury fillings placed if you want whiter teeth.  If you have them already, consider replacing they with white tooth colored fillings.

Can you expect some improvement with replacement of mercury silver fillings? Of course. But sometimes masking the discoloration with porcelain restorations is the only option.

Mercury silver fillings also darken teeth because they block the natural light transmission through and reflection from natural teeth. From a cosmetic and natural appearance perspective, certainly mercury silver fillings should be avoided.

Root Canal Treatment Can Darken Teeth

Filling materials used in root canal treatment frequently cause tooth roots to darken over time. Sometimes, the darkening is so extreme it is visible through bone and gum tissue. Newer materials have tried to address this problem that has existed for years. But there is no good solution for badly stained roots from root canal treatment. Even masking the root discoloration with porcelain restorations is hard.

Some Teeth Will Not Improve With Whitening Remedies.

Tetracycline Antibiotics Darken Teeth-Avoid Them

Teeth darkened by the use of antibiotics known as tetracyclines will not whiten appreciably with any natural methods. The reduction in usage of these antibiotics has been recommended for years in children, due to the known side effect of causing terribly darkened teeth.

Perhaps the use of tetracycline was necessary when it was administered years ago but the cosmetic effects are devastating. If you are hoping for a natural remedy for dark, tetracycline stained teeth, there are no great solutions for you.

Fluoride Stained Teeth-Mottled Enamel Cannot Be Reversed

All too commonly in an effort to provide decay resistant teeth, physicians and dentists have caused mottled enamel. The white spots in mild cases and ugly brown in more severe cases, are the result of toxic fluoride effects on a developing tooth.

The cause…fluoride drops or tablets administered to young children by well meaning pediatricians. In addition to prescription fluoride, a child is exposed to many other sources of fluoride too. Swallowing flavored fluoride toothpaste residue, fluoridated water supplies and swallowing residue from fluoride administered in dental offices, it is easy to see why fluoride overdosage occurs.

Water supplies, including some well water in regions of the U.S. also have very high levels of fluoride, leading to severely disfigured teeth with dark brown discoloration. Colorado and Texas have regions with very high levels of fluoride in well water with many residents affected for life.

Years later, when adult teeth erupt the evidence of fluoride mottling is revealed. Unfortunately, little can be done naturally to eliminate the dark brown discolorations of fluoride mottled teeth.

Extrinsic Stains Are Easy To Remedy

Avoid Highly Pigmented Foods

My favorite list of foods to avoid, if you are trying to whiten your teeth, are blueberries, red wine, licorice, and soy sauce. These foods will tend to discolor even the fine lines in your teeth called craze lines.

If you look at your teeth in a magnifying mirror or up close you will see vertical lines running from front tooth edge to the gumline. These lines result from alternating exposure to hot and cold foods and drinks. Part of your tooth is expanding due to heat and part of the tooth is shrinking due to cold and a crack or craze line occurs.

They are cracks in the tooth that are visible up close but do not usually weaken the tooth. They can discolor with repeated consumption of high pigmented foods.

Blueberries are one of those foods that can seriously stain your teeth. It is even hard to remove all blueberry stain in the dental office. Eat your blueberries and clean the residue off your teeth immediately.

Avoid Smoking And Smokeless Tobacco

Though not a food, tobacco has a very high potential for causing tooth discoloration. Whitening remedies will work in the short term but with continued use tobacco and smoking will usually win out and grossly discolor your teeth.

Tobacco appears to have a seeping stain characteristic. In an adult where some or all of the enamel is worn from the biting edges of front teeth, tobacco has a big staining advantage. It seeps into the tooth when dentin is exposed. That junction does not seem to be tight enough to keep out the staining chemicals and as a result discolorations occur quickly.

Surface Stain Requires Surface Abrasive Polishes

I mentioned bentonite clay earlier as a tooth polish good for removing surface or extrinsic stains. I’ll mention a few other materials that would serve as good polishes for surface stains.

Coconut Oil Can Remove Stains

Some food stains are water based, and some are oil based such as tomato sauce made with olive oil. If you have ever gotten tomato sauce on clothing, you realize the stain can be particularly difficult to remove. An oil based solvent will often do much better cleaning up an oil based stain. Here is where coconut oil has a particular advantage over just water.

Whether you subscribe to the oil pulling technique that originated in India centuries ago or not it, appears to be effective at promoting gum health. I see amazing differences.

I would expect that coconut oil would have an affinity for capturing and containing bacteria of all varieties. Most bacteria have a lipid or fat layer as part of their cell wall and are naturally pulled into coconut oil used when either rinsing or brushing. When you spit out afterward you get rid of the captured bacteria.

Coconut oil mixed with a variety of polishing agents seems to be ideal for removing oil based food stains and plaque.

Baking Soda The Old Time Tooth Paste

Baking soda has been used by itself as a tooth polish for many years. It has a good abrasive index meaning it is soft enough that it doesn’t cause significant harm to teeth with regular use. Just use a very soft brush.

Dip a tooth brush into water and then dab it into baking soda held in the palm of your hand. This loads your brush for effective brushing and stain removal. And as the stain disappears so does the plaque buildup that attracts stain.

image of Baking soda in the palm of your hand

Baking soda in the palm of your hand

Powdered Activated Charcoal Fights Stains

How to whiten your teeth naturally without baking soda can be as simple as black or white. As odd as it may seem using black charcoal powder on white teeth, it does an amazing job of stain removal. It takes few minutes, however, to chase out the fine charcoal particles that make you look like you’ve been eating pepper. Brush your tongue too, to get the remainder of the evidence out of your mouth.

Mixtures of coconut oil, activated charcoal, bentonite clay and essential oils are a recent big hit for those wanting a natural approach to oral health. The individual components all work effectively so it makes sense that a combination would work equally well or better.

While you are looking for a natural approach to dental and oral health keep your holistic or biological dentist in mind. They could easily be your best coach for guiding your dental health efforts. Our goal is to catch small problems when they are small and still relatively easy to deal with.

I’ll be writing another post soon that will have recipes for stain fighting toothpaste alternatives. They are great for the gums too.

image of Powdered coconut charcoal tooth polish

Powdered coconut charcoal tooth polish