Whiten teeth naturally
Tips on gentle and protective teeth whitening
Costly bleaching is not the only way to white teeth and a sparkling smile. Teeth can be whitened naturally using a number of different methods.
We will now explain why you should proceed with caution with home remedies such as baking powder etc., which toothpastes can offer a gentle alternative to traditional whitening products and what options are available for teeth whitening from your dentist.
Reasons for tooth discolouration
Why do teeth turn yellow?
Not everyone has naturally gleaming white teeth. We all have a natural, genetically defined tooth colour. The density of our dental enamel and its ability to cover the underlying yellow dentine is the reason why a tooth is white or has a yellowish, reddish or even greyish undertone.
This natural tooth colour changes with age. The most common causes of tooth discolouration are:
- Consumption of highly coloured foods
- Certain habits, such as smoking
- Wear and tear, for example, caused by brushing too hard or grinding the teeth
Which foods cause tooth discolouration?
A number of foodstuffs and drinks contain so-called tannins. These are vegetable or plant-based tannins, which can stain the teeth when consumed regularly. They include:
- Tea, especially black and green teas
- Red wine
- Brightly coloured fruits such as berries and grapes
- Some nuts and legumes
- Herbs and spices such as turmeric and saffron
Whiten teeth gently
Can toothpaste make teeth whiter?
Brushing your teeth properly and regularly not only prevents tooth and gum diseases, it also stops staining in its tracks. Nevertheless, even with the most thorough oral hygiene routines, teeth can still become yellow over time. This happens in two ways:
- Extrinsically: By deposits – for example due to the consumption of specific foodstuffs or some medications – which are not adequately removed by daily brushing
- Intrinsically: Due to loss of enamel, which exposes the underlying dentine, making the teeth appear more yellow
Special toothpastes with formulations claiming to make teeth whiter are a popular choice for many people wishing to remove discolouration at home. And there is a vast selection of these products in pharmacies and drugstores. However, there a few things that should be noted when choosing a whitening toothpaste.
Can whitening toothpaste damage teeth?
Compared with traditional products, a classic whitening toothpaste usually contains a higher percentage of abrasive particles, which are usually also extremely hard. During brushing, these particles clean the tooth surface by mechanically removing deposits and staining. This process is also known as abrasion. The teeth then appear whiter due to the greater abrasion during brushing.
The RDA value indicates the degree of abrasiveness of a toothpaste. RDA is the abbreviation for radioactive or relative dentine abrasion. According to experts, this value should not exceed 80 for adults as this is the maximum level for a good ratio of abrasion to cleaning efficiency.
However, whitening toothpastes or special smokers toothpastes often have significantly higher RDA values of 100 or higher. In Europe, toothpaste with RDA values of up to 250 is actually permitted, but is unsuitable for daily brushing.
Long-term use of these products will in fact damage the tooth substance. Used frequently, it will be abraded by the aggressive cleaning, which can even have the opposite effect:
As the mainly white enamel is cleaned off, the underlying, darker dentine is exposed. For this reason, the German Dental Association cautions against the long-term use of these products to avoid damaging the teeth.
Our teeth appear white because of our dental enamel, which is comprised of 97% hydroxyapatite – a mineral which is naturally white. Despite being extremely tough, enamel will suffer as a result of continuous acid erosion, bacteria and mechanical damage.
Teeth can appear darker or yellow due to enamel loss. In addition, deposits can settle more easily in microscopically small defects in the tooth enamel and are more difficult to remove. Therefore, protecting the dental enamel is a gentler alternative for whitening the teeth naturally - and keeping them white.
Bioniq® Repair-Toothpaste with 20% artificial enamel (biomimetic hydroxyapatite) combats tooth discolouration with a dual action approach:
- It forms a protective layer, making the teeth feel smoother and repairing microscopically small defects, which are highly prone to staining.1
- As the active substance is naturally white and is deposited on the tooth during brushing2, with regular use, the teeth gradually become whiter.
Whiten teeth naturally using home remedies
How do turmeric, baking powder and other home remedies work?
On the quest for the perfect Hollywood smile, the internet offers up plenty of tips on how to achieve the desired effect at home without spending too much money. However, some home remedies can cause more harm to your teeth than good. We’ve taken a closer look at the most popular home remedies for naturally whiter teeth.
Baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
Baking powder, or bicarbonate of soda, is an extremely effective household remedy with many different uses. It is claimed that it not only removes stubborn deposits such as coffee or burned-on food stains, but that it also neutralises odours.
To whiten teeth, the powder will work its magic mixed with a little water. The particles can indeed remove plaque and tartar build up. However, this aggressive method can damage the dental substance: The sodium hydrogen carbonate in this substance works like sandpaper, roughening the tooth surface. This action can even have the opposite effect: The teeth appear more yellow and staining of the rough surface is more likely to occur.
Lemons or strawberries
Acidic fruits such as lemons and strawberries are said to naturally whiten discoloured teeth. The recommendation is to simply cut them up, blend or puree them and rub them onto the teeth. The acid in these fruits can “etch off” plaque and tartar. But this is yet another crude method.
The acid attacks the enamel. With long-term use, it can even become so badly damaged that the underlying dentine is exposed and the teeth appear more yellow than before.
Apple cider vinegar
Another household product that is said to help whiten teeth is apple cider vinegar. It is rich in vitamins A, C and E and contains other key nutrients. However, it also has a very high acid content. Just like lemons and strawberries, apple cider vinegar leaches minerals from the surface of the teeth. As a result, the teeth become porous.
The idea of using salt for natural teeth whitening comes from its texture: The tiny crystals are thought to “scrub off” stains during brushing. This is similar to the abrasive particles added to whitening toothpastes. However, salt particles are much larger. The risk of abrading not only dark stains but also the enamel is significantly higher.
Toothpastes containing activated charcoal for whiter teeth have been around for quite a few years. This black powder can bind bacteria and harmful substances. However, the brightening effect is due to the fine particles of the activated charcoal.
This substance also employs abrasion during brushing to remove stains. Quite often, these dark-coloured toothpastes are much more abrasive than those without activated charcoal. Over the long-term, their use can lead to the erosion of too much dental substance and make the teeth more sensitive, as well as darker.
Another alleged secret tip for a sparkling smile is turmeric. This brightly coloured, yellow-orange plant that belongs to the ginger family is commonly used to add colour and flavour when cooking. And it is said to whiten teeth. This may at first sound like a paradox. The brightening effect is caused by the naturally occurring substance curcumin, which is also reported to have anti-inflammatory properties. For a brightening effect, it is advised to either chew on a fresh turmeric root, to add the powder to your regular toothpaste, or mix with coconut oil. Then apply with a toothbrush.
Even if many swear by the action of this plant from south-east Asia, its long-term use can have the opposite effect. If the surface of the teeth is rough or uneven, pitted or grooved areas can be permanently stained. Furthermore, it is possible that the colour will adhere to composite fillings.
Another herb that is said to help whiten teeth is sage. The leaves are slightly rough, and when chewed or rubbed on the teeth, can allegedly remove plaque gently and naturally. Even if this is possible, sage can never beat the cleaning action of a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Teeth whitening at the dentist: What can the expert do?
Anyone wishing to whiten their teeth by several shades lighter would be best advised to see their dentist. As professional teeth whitening is usually a purely cosmetic treatment, it is not covered by dental insurance. This procedure can cost several hundred pounds. Most dentists offer a number of different options for teeth whitening.
In-office bleaching refers to professional teeth whitening performed by the dentist. During this procedure, the dentist applies a highly concentrated gel containing hydrogen peroxide to the teeth. One treatment session is often enough. Like hair bleaching, the substance removes the colour from the teeth (embedded stains): Hydrogen peroxide decomposes into water and oxygen, releasing free radicals, stains are broken down and the teeth then appear brighter and whiter.
For an even greater effect, an LED or UV light source is used on the gel, a process known as power bleaching. The bleaching action is intensified by the light. The dentist applies the gel gradually, applies the light source and then suctions out the residue. This process is repeated as many times as needed until the desired shade is achieved. It can also be used on individual teeth.
After bleaching, patients should follow a so-called “white diet” for several days or weeks. All coloured foods and beverages are avoided and the patient consumes only those products that do not stain the teeth, for example pasta or rice. Your dentist will usually provide you with tips and recommendations.
With so-called home bleaching, teeth whitening is performed by the patient at home under special instructions from the dentist. First, the dental practice makes a plastic mouth tray for the patient. These are custom-made. Then the patient is given a peroxide gel at a concentration of up to 6%, to be filled into the tray.
The tray usually needs to be worn for a few hours a day over several weeks. Its use should be closely monitored by the dentist to minimise the risk of user error and to ensure that a satisfactory result is achieved.
Professional teeth cleaning (PTC)
Teeth bleaching is expensive and can often cause temporary pain. However, surface staining and discolouration can easily be removed by professional teeth cleaning. First, a dye is applied to the teeth so that tartar and deposits are revealed. Then the plaque is removed - first mechanically, then manually.
The teeth are then cleaned using a powder/water jet. This also removes superficial discolouration. The teeth are then polished and buffered, helping to promote general dental and oral health.
Veneers are another option for making teeth appear whiter. These small ceramic mouldings are custom-made. They are then fitted to the specific teeth using a special dental bonding agent.
Hence this method does not actually whiten the teeth themselves, instead it covers the discolouration using another material.
This may also be of interest:
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. Over time, however, it is worn away. In this article you will learn what enamel is, what function it has for oral health, how to detect enamel wear and how to restore your own enamel.
Individuals suffering from sensitive teeth know the sudden, flash-like pain which will follow after savouring cold, hot, sour or sweet foods. Here, you will find the most frequent causes for the so-called dentin hypersensitivity and what you can do about it!
Our teeth are made of as much as 97% hydroxyapatite. Brush back enamel by using Bioniq® products with artificial enamel.
- Steinert, S. et. al. Daily Application of a Toothpaste with Biomimetic Hydroxyapatite and Its Subjective Impact on Dentin Hypersensitivity, Tooth Smoothness, Tooth Whitening, Gum Bleeding, and Feeling of Freshness. Biomimetics 5(2):17, 1-11 (2020)
- Fabritius-Vilpoux, K. et al. Quantitative Affinity Parameters of Synthetic Hydroxyapatite and Enamel Surfaces in vitro. Bioinspired, Biomimetic and Nanobiomaterials 8, 141-153 (2019)