A smile filled with healthy white teeth is a universal symbol of health and beauty, but over time teeth get dull and discolored for a wide variety of reasons.
Individuals can use different techniques to help whiten and bleach teeth back to their original color, which is usually several shade lighter.
While using products to whiten the teeth leads to improvements in their color, it’s important to remember that most of these remedies and products can never make the teeth dramatically white.
Tooth discoloration is caused by several factors, which can each be either external or internal.
- A Smoking habit damages teeth permanently and is one of the major causes of discoloration and decay. Long-term smoking leads to grey marks on the teeth and yellowness that are impossible to get rid of.
- Drinking cola, coffee, tea or other dark beverages as well as eating highly-pigmented foods such as cherries and berries on a regular basis can cause stains on the teeth that are dark brown or black. Compounds in these items break down tooth enamel and cause the teeth to become sticky. When this happens the surfaces of the teeth easily absorb the natural dyes in food and drinks.
- Dental plaque accumulates on teeth when they are not cleaned properly. As fungi and bacteria grow it on top of the plaque it can lead to stains on the teeth that look orange or green.
- The sugar content and high acid level in most sugary beverages can cause damage to the tooth enamel and discoloration over time.
- Brushing teeth immediately after a meal when they are weakest, wears down the enamel leading to more damage, which causes teeth to absorb stains easily.
- Taking the antibiotic tetracycline while teeth are still developing (usually during childhood) can cause teeth to appear brownish-yellow or greyish-blue.
- Pulp necrosis and tooth decay can both cause the teeth to look greyish-black, and is caused by damage to the enamel due to trauma.
- Patches on tooth surfaces that appear brownish yellow or that have white patches are caused by several factors, which include early tooth decay, fluorosis (ingesting too much fluoride) and the teeth being disturbed during their development.
- Fluorosis (ingesting over two parts fluoride for each million parts of water) over a long period of time changes the way tooth enamel develops causing while patches that make teeth look mottled.
- When the pulp of a decayed deciduous tooth is exposed to bacteria at the top (its apex) it leads to infection that causes brownish-yellow patches during the development of the permanent tooth.
- Tooth enamel naturally darkens with age, even if an individual takes very good care of their teeth.
The following are several effective home remedies for whitening teeth safely and effectively.
- Sea Salt Mixture
Replace toothpaste with a mixture of sea salt to whiten teeth. It works to kill bacteria and germs in the mouth by increasing its pH temporarily and making it completely alkaline.
Rinsing the mouth with a salt water mixture after eating is good for keeping it clean and bacteria free and healing any sores in the mouth.
- Combine one ounce of water with half a teaspoon of sea salt.
- Put the toothbrush into the mixture and let it sit for between three to five minutes before brushing the teeth.
- Strawberry Paste
The malic acid and vitamin C content of strawberries makes it an effective treatment for whitening teeth and removing stains and plaque.
- Combine two or three crushed strawberries with half a teaspoon of baking soda.
- Use the paste to brush teeth several times each week.
- Eat fresh strawberries, chewing them thoroughly before swallowing.
Warning: The compounds in strawberries can wear tooth enamel down so alternate using this remedy with a fluoride-based toothpaste.
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
While it takes some time to produce visible results, apple cider vinegar helps to whiten teeth and remove surface stains when used as a toothpaste (along with baking soda) or as a mouth rinse.
- Combine two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and half a teaspoon of baking soda to make a paste.
- Brush teeth with the paste several times a week.
- Use apple cider vinegar to rinse the mouth several times a day.
- Eating Apples
Eating fresh, tart, crisp and firm apples helps to remove the film on teeth that can make them look dull and dingy while also encouraging the saliva production that keeps stains from forming.
- Bite an apple using the front teeth, sinking them into the fruit all the way up to the gums.
- Chewing Sugarless Gum
Chewing on sugarless gum helps to remove food particles from the teeth and helps to whiten by producing extra saliva in the mouth.
- Drinking Water
Drinking water on a regular basis helps to whiten by removing build up and debris from teeth such as sugar and food particles.
Swishing water around in the mouth in between mouthfuls of food helps to brighten the teeth and keep them from looking dull.
Lemon juice helps to whiten teeth by removing yellow stains and killing bacteria in the mouth.
- Mix the juice of one lemon with water and use it to rinse the mouth.
- Rub a lemon peel directly onto the teeth.
- Combine several drops of lemon juice with salt and apply the mixture to the gums and teeth, concentrating on stained areas.
- Leave the solution in place for several minutes before rinsing it away with water.
For best results use this treatment twice daily.
- Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Holy basil (also known as Tulsi) helps to whiten teeth and prevent oral health issues such as bleeding gums.
- Crush sundried basil leaves into a powder and use it to brush the teeth.
- Combine crushed basil leaves with mustard (or orange) oil to make a paste and apply it to the teeth.
- Margosa (Neem)
The astringent and antiseptic properties of the twigs from the margosa (neem) plant help to whiten teeth by removing yellow stains and maintaining the health of the teeth.
The twig itself helps to prevent cavities and bad breath while doubling as a toothbrush when chewed.
- Brush teeth gently with a combination of toothpaste and a few drops of margosa oil.
- Orange Peel
The vitamin C and calcium in orange peel helps to whiten teeth by killing microorganisms in the gums and teeth.
- Every night before going to sleep, rub a piece of orange peel or orange peel powder directly into the teeth.
- Crunchy Vegetables
Eating crunchy vegetables such as carrots, cucumber, broccoli and celery helps to whiten teeth by removing plaque. Raw carrots are particularly effective because they kill bacteria in the mouth and keep it clean by promoting a healthy acid-alkaline balance.
When they are eaten every day, raisins help to whiten teeth by removing and preventing the plaque that sticks to teeth and boosting saliva production.
Studies show that eating cheese after a meal can help to re-mineralize teeth and prevent decay that leads to discoloration.
- Milk and Yogurt
The high calcium and phosphorus content of milk and yogurt make them effective for strengthening and re-mineralizing the enamel of the teeth, while also helping to prevent cavities.
- Banyan Roots
The astringent properties contained in the banyan tree roots help to whiten teeth naturally, with the trees aerial roots also doubling as a disposable toothbrush.
- Chew a piece of the root of the banyan tree thoroughly before spitting it out.
- Citrus Fruits
Eating citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and pineapples whitens teeth naturally because their tartness encourages the mouth to produce more saliva.
- Bay Leaves
Bay leaves are an effective remedy for whitening teeth.
- Crush dried bay leaves to make a powder.
- Combine the powdered bay leaves with an equal portion of powder from dried orange peels.
- Add enough water to the powder to make a paste before rubbing the mixture into the teeth.
- Rub the mixture of bay and orange leaf powder directly into the teeth.
- Dark Chocolate
Compounds in dark chocolate, such as theobromine, help to whiten and strengthen teeth by hardening its surfaces.
- Peelu Plant Fibers
Peelu plant fibers ground into power form make a natural and non-abrasive toothpaste that helps to whiten teeth.
- Aloe Vera
The antibacterial properties of aloe vera make it very effective for cleaning and whitening the teeth. It works to protect teeth from cavities and the eventual need for root canals.
- Combine vegetable glycerin, aloe vera and a small amount of baking soda to make a paste.
- Brush teeth thoroughly using the mixture as a toothpaste.
Although well-known for causing stains, turmeric actually helps to whiten discolored teeth.
- Roast turmeric before grinding into a powder.
- Combine the turmeric powder with a little bit of salt and lime juice.
- Apply the mixture to the gums and teeth to whiten and keep the mouth healthy.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
While most individuals use hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds, it is also extremely useful for oral hygiene and is available in most pharmacies.
Using a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide to bleach the teeth is a safe and effective method for whitening at home. It is recommended by the American Dental Association and can be used as a toothpaste or mouthwash.
- Combine two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide, three teaspoons of baking soda and a few drops of mint and peppermint extracts to make a paste with a toothpaste-like consistency.
- Use the paste to brush the teeth for approximately two minutes using small circular motions.
- Wash the paste residue from the mouth thoroughly.
- Brush teeth with regular toothpaste to remove all traces of hydrogen peroxide from the mouth.
For best results use this treatment once weekly.
- Place approximately two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide in the mouth before swishing it around for approximately one minute before spitting it out and rising with clean water.
- Brush teeth thoroughly.
Note: The combination of bacteria and hydrogen peroxide causes a bubbling and foaming reaction to take place inside the mouth, and is a sign that it is killing bacteria.
- Baking Soda
One of the most popular and effective home remedies for whitening teeth and removing stains and discoloration is baking soda, which can be used as a mouth rinse or a toothpaste.
- Combine two tablespoons baking soda with one cup of cold water and mix well until completely dissolved.
Rinse with the solution two or three times daily for best results.
- Wet a toothbrush before dipping into a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda combined with a few drops of water.
- Brush the teeth with the mixture for approximately two minutes before rinsing the mouth thoroughly with clean water.
Repeat two or three times weekly for best results.
Warning: Baking soda can damage tooth enamel with overuse, so proceed with caution.
Activated charcoal is an effective remedy for whitening teeth because of its absorbent qualities. Any toxins, impurities and stains present in the mouth bond with charcoal’s surface making it easier to remove them with brushing and rinsing.
Over time using activated charcoal regularly leaves teeth feeling smoother and cleaner and looking visibly whiter. It does this by increasing the pH of the entire mouth, which helps to kill the bacteria that can cause plaque, gingivitis, tooth decay, discoloration and staining.
Activated charcoal is available in powder or capsule form online and in most natural health stores.
- Take a clean toothbrush and moisten it with water before dipping into powered charcoal. Alternatively, open a charcoal capsule and pour its contents directly onto a damp toothbrush.
- To avoid staining items in the vicinity, place the charcoal covered toothbrush into the mouth carefully without spilling any particles.
- Using small circular motions, brush the teeth gently for approximately two minutes before rinsing the mouth clean.
Repeat as often as necessary for best results.
- Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil Paste
Oil pulling, which is an Ayurvedic remedy that involves swishing oil throughout the mouth and in between the teeth, helps to detoxify the mouth and gums by removing harmful bacteria and germs.
Organic cold-pressed vegetable oils from the coconut, sesame and olive all have lipids that help to remove bacteria that stick to the surface of the teeth.
Coconut oil is particularly beneficial for teeth whitening because it has fatty acids that transform into enzymes that help to whiten teeth when they mix with saliva (it also contains antioxidants, vitamin E and has a pleasant taste). The mixture activates an oxygen molecule (oxidized free radical) that sticks to any stains on the surface of the teeth, before creating a chemical reaction that helps to remove the stain easily with a tooth brush or mouthwash.
Melt one cup of coconut oil into liquid form before combining it with two teaspoons of baking soda and five to ten drops of spearmint extract to add flavor and kill bacteria.
- Swish tablespoon full of oil in the mouth for up to twenty minutes on (an empty stomach).
- Remove the oil from the mouth and rinse with warm water.
- Banana Rub
Bananas are a rich source of compounds that help to whiten teeth when they are absorbed through the enamel. These compounds include minerals such as magnesium, potassium and manganese among others.
- Brush and floss the teeth thoroughly.
- Peel a banana and rub a piece of the inner part against the teeth for approximately two minutes before rinsing the mouth.
Repeat twice daily for best results, with one time being right before going to bed.
- Brush The Tongue
Along with freshening the breath, brushing the tongue removes bacteria that can cause discoloration and stains on the teeth.
- Beginning at the back of the tongue and with long strokes, use a toothbrush with soft bristles to brush the tongue. After each stroke, rinse the brush under running water to avoid re-depositing any bacteria.
- Use a Straw
Use a straw to drink dark-colored beverages such as cola or grape juice. This keeps the liquid from making direct contact with the surface of the teeth, which can lead to stains from food dyes.
Additional useful remedies for whitening teeth involve taking care of them on a daily basis with proper oral care habits.
- Brush Teeth Twice Daily
Brushing teeth properly and often is the cornerstone of every healthy dental care plan. According to dental experts, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste to clean the teeth twice a day (for two minutes at a time) is the best way to achieve a healthy mouth.
- Hold the toothbrush at a forty-five degree angle, parallel to the teeth and gums.
- Using short strokes, move the brush back and forth over the teeth gently, brushing the chewing, inner and outer surfaces of all teeth.
- To reach the inner surface of the front teeth, turn the brush so that it is vertical and brush the teeth up and down.
- To remove harmful bacteria and keep breath fresh, use the toothbrush to brush the tongue thoroughly.
- Use The Right Toothbrush
Use either an electric or manual toothbrush to clean teeth properly.
- Individuals who have a hard time using manual toothbrushes benefit tremendously from using electrical options.
- For sensitive teeth and gums, a soft-bristled toothbrush is best.
Consult with a dental health professional to determine the right type of toothbrush for your needs.
- Choose the Right Toothpaste
Available in gel, powder or paste form, toothpaste is another important part of a healthy dental care plan that helps to remove the plaque and food particles that stain teeth and lead to discoloration.
To strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay, fluoride, which is a mineral found in water, is typically added to toothpaste. Fluoride kills the bacteria in the mouth effectively and is safe for children and toddlers to use.
- Mild abrasives and compounds such as hydrogen peroxide (may cause tooth sensitivity), calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate and hydrated aluminum oxides make whitening toothpastes effective for getting rid of surface stains and bleaching yellow discoloration in the teeth.
- For sensitive teeth, use toothpaste formulated with potassium citrate and potassium nitrate, which help to desensitize teeth and gums to sooth them and make them less sensitive. Alternate using whitening and sensitive toothpaste daily to remove stains without affecting the teeth.
- Use natural compounds that are effective for cleaning and whitening teeth like baking soda, xylitol, papaya plant extract, green tea extract, zinc citrate and citric acid to brush teeth that are sensitive to fluoride.
Warning: Only use a pea-sized amount of fluoride-based toothpaste for children between the ages of three and six and a rice grain-sized amount for children under three.
- Keep Toothbrushes Clean
It is important to change toothbrushes every three to four months. Keeping the toothbrush in a closed container encourages the growth of bacteria, which can cause infections, plaque buildup and damage to tooth enamel.
- To avoid the spread of bacteria and germs that can cause disease, never share a toothbrush with anyone.
- Stop bacteria from building up in the bristles by washing the toothbrush thoroughly before and after brushing the teeth.
- Floss Teeth Regularly
Along with brushing the teeth, flossing is one of the most important steps to maintaining optimal dental health. Floss daily to stop plaque from collecting in areas that brushing cannot reach. Left unattended, plaque becomes tartar that hardens and causes gum disease and tooth discoloration.
Floss gently to avoid discomfort and damage to the gums. While it may feel uncomfortable initially, after a week or two of regular flossing the feeling quickly disappears. However, if it does not, consult with your dental health care specialist for gentler options.
- Take a section of floss approximately eighteen inches long and wrap each end around the index fingers of each hand, holding it firmly between the thumbs and forefingers.
- Pass the floss in between the teeth and move it back and forth gently until it gets down to the base of the tooth.
- Curve the floss in the shape of the letter C to remove plaque buildup before rubbing the floss along the side of the tooth.
- Repeat the process on the rest of the spaces between the teeth.
- Use the floss to remove plaque from the back-side of the last set of teeth.
- Once the cleaning is complete, discard the floss.
Note: Once a child has two or more teeth parents should begin flossing them, with children under the age of eleven being supervised by an adult while flossing.
- Use The Right Floss
Floss is typically made of plastic or nylon fibers coated with beeswax or plant-based wax, and artificially flavored with mint, lemon, sugar alcohols (mannitol and xylitol) and artificial sweeteners to make them more enjoyable to use. Plain floss without waxes or flavorings are equally as effective as other options.
While they are more expensive, there are other floss options such as those made with silk, which are organic and do not contain plastics, fluorides or artificial flavorings.
Avoid damage to teeth and gums by not using fabric or string to floss. Always look for the seal of approval from the American Dental Association when choosing a floss to ensure that it is safe and effective.
- Use Mouthwash
There are several over-the-counter mouthwash formulations available that help to kill bacteria, remove plaque and improve enamel strength against staining and discoloration.
- Use one ounce of mouthwash to swish throughout the mouth for between two to three minutes before spiting it out.
- Use mouthwash after brushing and flossing the teeth or after having a meal.
- Consult with a dental health professional to select a mouthwash that is right for your specific needs such as formulations made with extra fluoride or antibacterial properties.
- For sensitive teeth and gums, use a cup of warm distilled water as a gentle but effective mouthwash.
- Many mouthwash formulations have high levels of alcohol, so read labels carefully if it is necessary to avoid using products that contain alcohol.
- Avoid using mouthwashes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is a detergent that can lead to ulcers in the mouth and extreme sensitivity.
- Natural options for mouthwash include vegetable oils, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and salt (sodium chloride), into which plant-based extracts (lemon, cinnamon, sage or peppermint) can be added to freshen the breath.
- Use a Water Pick
An effective method for removing food particles from in and around the teeth is a water pick. It works the same way as a pressure washer, blasting debris from their hiding places throughout the mouth. This keeps the surface of the teeth clean and free of stains when used after meals.
While you may be able to remove and prevent minor stains with the methods above, what follows are more aggressive options for getting rid of stains and whitening teeth with do-it-yourself and professional grade products.
- Tooth-Whitening Kits
An easy to use product for whitening teeth at home is the tooth-whitening kit. They are tooth bleaching products formulated with carbamide peroxide, which can change the natural color of teeth and remove deep stains such as those caused by drinking coffee on a regular basis.
The kits usually come in two formats, gels that brush directly onto the teeth, and gels used with trays that mold onto the teeth.
Ranging from approximately twenty to three hundred dollars, teeth whitening kits that utilize trays and gels can be bought over-the-counter of from the dentist’s office.
Home-use trays are typically one-size-fits-all, which must be molded to fit an individual’s teeth, while trays from the dentist’s office are typically custom made.
The amount of time that the trays are left in place depends on the type of gel being used:
Wear the trays for two to four hours daily, or overnight (if there is no excessive sensitivity) for ten, fifteen or sixteen percent gels. For stronger twenty to twenty two percent gels, wear the trays for between thirty minutes to one hour each day, but never overnight.
Use the trays for between thirty minutes to an hour, twice daily.
- Before using either treatment, floss teeth thoroughly and ensure that there is no moisture inside the trays.
- Apply a small amount of peroxide gel to the tray (approximately tear-drop size).
- Insert the trays into the mouth and wipe away any gel that spills onto the gums with a paper towel.
- After the recommended time, take the trays out and brush teeth thoroughly using a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth.
- Use cool water and a cotton swab to clean trays thoroughly before leaving them to air dry and finding a dry and cool place to store any remaining gel.
For best results, repeat daily for one or two weeks.
Warning: Using too much gel may cause it to spill out of the tray where it can cause irritation to mouth or stomach (if it gets swallowed).
Whitening pens are one of the simpler and more affordable methods for removing discoloration from teeth. They are available at most pharmacies, cost between twenty and thirty dollars each, and offer a no-mess way to apply whitening gel directly to the teeth.
While whitening pens are not effective for whitening areas in between the teeth, they help to make breath smell fresher and get rid of some bacteria in the mouth.
- Before applying the gel floss thoroughly and brush the teeth.
- Open the whitening pen and follow the instructions on the package to release a small amount of gel from the tip.
- Using a mirror, smile widely to expose as many of the teeth as possible.
- Paint the gel onto the exposed surface of each tooth and keep the mouth open for approximately thirty seconds until the gel dries.
- Do not drink or eat anything for approximately thirty to forty minutes.
For best results, repeat the treatment three times a day for two to four weeks.
- Whitening Toothpastes
Available at most pharmacies and supermarkets for less than ten dollars a tube, the most affordable product for removing discoloration from teeth at home is specially formulated whitening toothpaste.
They work by using gentle abrasives, polishing compounds and chemicals to get rid of stains without causing any harsh effects. However, whitening toothpaste does not bleach the teeth or change their natural color in any way.
Only use whitening toothpastes that carry the seal of approval from the American Dental Association (ADA). They contain particles that use abrasive action to polish the teeth, and compounds that remove stains after binding them.
If yellowness of the teeth is a specific concern, use whitening toothpaste that contains an ingredient known as blue covarine, which binds to the teeth, making them have a more normal appearance through optical illusion.
Note: Studies show that whitening toothpastes do not cause any more damage to tooth enamel than any other type of toothpaste.
- Whitening Strips
Another affordable option for removing stains, discoloration and improving the appearance of teeth is using teeth-whitening strips. Available over-the-counter, they typically cost between thirty and forty dollars for a set containing several strips.
Coated with peroxide gel, the strips are thin, made of polyethylene and are almost invisible once applied to the teeth. When used daily for several minutes at a time, whitening strips produce results within days, which can last for up to an entire year.
Depending on the strips used, they have to be removed after treatment or they will dissolve completely when they come into contact with saliva.
Whitening strips are very easy to use, however the results are not as dramatic as those received from using whitening kits.
- Before applying the treatment, floss thoroughly and brush the teeth.
- Take the strips out of the package and following the directions to apply one strip to the top teeth and the other to the bottom teeth.
- Leave the strips in place for the recommended amount of time (usually 30 minutes, twice daily) before removing the strips and washing the mouth thoroughly to remove all traces of gel.
For best results, repeat daily for two weeks.
Warning: Avoid a harsh ingredient known as chlorine dioxide, which is a chemical used to clean swimming pools that can damage enamel permanently.
- Dental Veneers
While they do not bleach the teeth, veneers are an effective solution for restoring the appearance of teeth as well as correcting their alignment (repairs broken or crooked teeth).
It works by bonding thin porcelain covers to the teeth, which makes them look white and discoloration-free.
- Laser Teeth Whitening
Professional treatments done with lasers are extremely effective for whitening teeth quickly and completely. It works by using a combination of peroxide gel, heat and lasers to activate the compounds in the gel. Although this method of whitening is the most expensive option, dramatic results can be achieved after one short thirty-minute treatment, with years of intense staining being removed from teeth.
Warning: Extensive staining may require several treatments to be removed completely.
- Whitening Devices
Personal use devices for whitening teeth, which use a similar technology to professional teeth whitening procedures, became available over-the-counter in recent times.
The devices use a combination of heat, high-intensity light, a mouthpiece and a hydrogen peroxide-based gel (non-migrating) to enhance the oxygen it contains to speed up the rate of whitening.
This method of whitening works quickly, typically producing noticeable results within two days.
Warning: Ensure that everyone close by wears protective goggles while the device is being used.
- Magic Erasers
While many people do not like using them because they cause damage to tooth enamel, another option for making teeth clean and white is using magic erasers.