Products and services that promise to instantly brighten your smile can easily be found on grocery shelves or at the dentist’s office. But before reaching for that home whitening kit or enduring another hour sitting in your dentist’s chair, consider these 13 natural, sometimes unconventional (but often delicious!), tooth-whitening alternatives:
1. Oil (sesame oil or virgin coconut oil)
Oil, or more specifically, oil pulling, is when oil is used for gargling, not cooking. Sesame oil or virgin coconut oil is swished around inside the mouth and then spat out after fifteen minutes. As the substance is vigorously “pulled” back and forth between your teeth, the mucous membranes inside your mouth absorb nutrients from it.
Sesame oil has omega-3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B, and E; while Virgin coconut oil has antibacterial properties that promote healthier gums and cavity-free teeth. Just make sure not to swallow any of the spittle that will form as you gargle.
Malic acid is a natural astringent that acts as a bleaching agent, and it is present in most commercially available tooth-whitening products. Strawberries are filled with this key ingredient, which will whiten your teeth naturally, so make sure to add them to your basket on your next trip to the farmer’s market. The vitamin C in strawberries also aids in removing plaque.
Apples also contain high levels of malic acid. The act of biting and chewing on this crunchy fruit gently scrubs away debris, stains, and bacteria from your mouth.
Say goodbye to tooth stains as you snack on that piece of celery during your break! The fibrous cellulose act as a natural toothbrush, while the high water content stimulates saliva production, your natural mouth cleanser.
Chewing on these rabbit favorites raw will increase the amount of saliva in your mouth, cleaning it further. The vitamin A in carrots is good, not just for your eyesight, but helps strengthen tooth enamel as well.
When eaten raw, this vegetable gently abrades tooth surfaces, which removes unsightly stains. The iron found in broccoli protects tooth enamel by coating it with an invisible barrier that keeps cavity-causing acids away.
Being devoid of color, most cheeses will not stain teeth. They also contain calcium and phosphorus, which help strengthen teeth and gums through re-mineralization. Those properties also help in insulating teeth from harmful acids in the mouth.
Drinking water helps you stay hydrated and prevents stains from forming on your teeth. Swish it in your mouth after eating or drinking pigment-rich foods and beverages to keep your smile white and bright. Water also reduces your mouth’s overall acidity, lessening the likelihood of damaging your tooth enamel. Just make sure you stick to flat water, as the sparkling variety increases the chances of eroding tooth surfaces.
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is a natural stain remover that also helps separate plaque from the surface of your teeth. This prevents tooth erosion and discourages cavities from forming, resulting in healthier and whiter teeth.
10. Shiitake Mushrooms
These fungi are filled with lentinan, a type of sugar that does not promote tooth decay but instead curbs its formation by preventing plaque-building bacteria from proliferating in your mouth.
The vitamin D found in salmon helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, nutrients that strengthen your teeth and contribute to a beautiful smile.
As a natural antibiotic, this herb has bacteria-inhibiting properties that prevent the formation of cavities.
13. Onions and Garlic
The key is in eating these raw. Doing so releases bacteria-reducing compounds called thiosulfates and thiosulfonates, promoting healthier teeth by reducing the production of plaque. Being colorless, these foods will also not stain teeth.
14. Seeds and Nuts
Chewing these lightly abrasive, hard foods rubs plaque and stains off the surface of teeth, says Dr. Matthew Messina, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. Pop a few almonds for a mid-afternoon snack—they’re full of protein, healthy fats, and the crunch you need to get pearly whites.
15. Baking Soda
Take a toothpaste break and try brushing with this common ingredient. Baking soda is a base, like bleach, notes Messina, and the “soda”—which is actually a form of salt—in this pantry staple is a mild abrasive that works to scrub off plaque and surface stains.
This bright fruit contains citrus, an acid that can wear away tooth enamel if ingested in large doses, making teeth whiter—but at a cost, says Messina. So while we don’t recommend gulping down bags of oranges in the spirit of a bright smile, a juicy helping once in a while is good for your pearly whites, and thanks to loads of vitamin C, your overall health too.
Smigel recommends munching on a pear to neutralize pesky odor-causing and staining bacteria colonies on teeth. Increased saliva production brought on by this sweet, delicious fruit also washes away food debris, leaving teeth clean and sparkling.