There are multiple factors that cause teeth to become dull and lose their bright, white sparkle.
Certain foods can stain your enamel, which is the outermost layer of your teeth. Additionally, plaque build-up on your teeth can cause them to look yellow.
This type of discoloration can usually be treated with regular cleaning and whitening remedies.
However, sometimes teeth look yellow because the hard enamel has eroded away, revealing the dentin underneath. Dentin is a naturally yellow, bony tissue that lies underneath the enamel.
Try Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is a traditional Indian folk remedy meant to improve oral hygiene and remove toxins from the body.
The practice involves swishing oil around in your mouth to remove bacteria, which can turn into plaque and cause your teeth to look yellow (2Trusted Source).
Traditionally, Indians used sunflower or sesame oil for oil pulling, but any oil will work.
Coconut oil is a popular choice because it has a pleasant taste and offers many additional health benefits.
Coconut oil is also high in lauric acid, which is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
A few studies have shown that daily oil pulling effectively reduces bacteria in the mouth, along with plaque and gingivitis (3Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Streptococcus mutans is one of the primary types of bacteria in the mouth that cause plaque and gingivitis. One study found that daily swishing with sesame oil significantly reduced Streptococcus mutans in saliva in as little as one week (8Trusted Source).
Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies to prove that oil pulling whitens your teeth. However, it's a safe practice and definitely worth a try. Many people claim their teeth are whiter and brighter after regular oil pulling.
To oil pull, put 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and push and pull the oil through your teeth. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you may need to wait a few seconds for it to melt. Continue the oil pulling for a full 15–20 minutes.
Be sure to spit the coconut oil into a toilet or trash can, as it could return to solid form once in your drain pipes and cause a clog.
Unlike many other tooth whitening methods, coconut oil pulling does not expose your teeth to acid or other ingredients that erode the enamel. This means it is safe to do daily.
Brush With Baking Soda
Baking soda has natural whitening properties, which is why it's a popular ingredient in commercial toothpaste.
It's a mild abrasive that can help scrub away surface stains on teeth.
Additionally, baking soda creates an alkaline environment in your mouth, which prevents bacteria from growing (9Trusted Source).
This is not a remedy that will whiten your teeth overnight, but you should notice a difference in the appearance of your teeth over time.
Science has not yet proven that brushing with plain baking soda will whiten your teeth, but several studies show that toothpaste with baking soda has a significant whitening effect.
One study found that toothpastes containing baking soda were significantly more effective at removing yellow stains from teeth than standard toothpastes without baking soda. The higher the concentration of baking soda, the greater the effect (10Trusted Source).
Furthermore, a review of five studies found that toothpastes containing baking soda removed plaque from teeth more effectively than non-baking soda toothpastes (11Trusted Source).
To use this remedy, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 2 teaspoons of water and brush your teeth with the paste. You can do this a few times per week.
Use Fruits and Vegetables
A diet high in fruits and vegetables may be good for both your body and your teeth.
While they're no substitute for brushing your teeth, crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables can help rub plaque away as you chew.
In particular, strawberries and pineapple are two fruits that have been claimed to help whiten your teeth.
Whitening your teeth with a strawberry and baking soda mixture is a natural remedy that has been made popular by celebrities.
Proponents of this method claim that the malic acid found in strawberries will remove discoloration on your teeth, while the baking soda will buff away stains.
However, this remedy has not been completely backed up by science.
While strawberries may help exfoliate your teeth and make them appear whiter, they are unlikely to penetrate the stains on your teeth.
A recent study found that a strawberry and baking soda mixture produced very little color change in teeth, compared to commercial whitening products (26Trusted Source).
If you decide to give this method a try, limit its use to a few times per week.
Despite studies showing that a strawberry and baking soda paste had a minimal effect on tooth enamel, excessive use could cause damage (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
To use this remedy, smash up a fresh strawberry, combine it with baking soda and brush the mixture on your teeth.
Some claim that pineapple can whiten teeth.
A study found that a toothpaste containing bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, was significantly more effective at removing tooth stains than a standard toothpaste (29Trusted Source).
However, there is no evidence that eating pineapples produces the same effect.
Don't Underestimate the Value of Brushing and Flossing
While some tooth discoloration comes naturally with age, it is largely a result of plaque build-up.
Regular brushing and flossing can help your teeth stay white by reducing bacteria in your mouth and preventing plaque build-up.
Toothpaste gently rubs out stains on your teeth, and flossing removes bacteria that lead to plaque.
Regular dental cleanings can also help your teeth stay clean and white.
Other Methods That Are Not Proven
There are a few other natural teeth whitening methods, but there is no scientific evidence to prove that they are effective or safe.
Here are some of the unproven methods:
- Activated charcoal: Brushing with powdered charcoal supposedly pulls toxins from the mouth and removes stains from teeth.
- Kaolin clay: Proponents of this method claim that brushing with clay helps remove stains from teeth.
- Fruit peels: Rubbing orange, lemon or banana peels on your teeth is claimed to make them whiter.
Advocates of these methods claim they make teeth significantly whiter, but no studies have evaluated their effectiveness. This also means that they have not been tested for side effects when used on teeth.
Written by Becky Bell