There are lots of teeth whitening home remedies and recipes online. Most of these include the use of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide or lemons. But how do you know if it’s really safe or really effective when it comes to at home whitening? While many of these techniques can whiten tooth enamel, they may also cause harmful damage and side effects to the teeth and other oral tissues. It’s important to know that results with home based whitening recipes may not have as quick of a result as a commercial product that is chemically optimized for that purpose. Extended use of home remedies should be monitored very closely.
Baking soda works very well to remove surface stains on teeth from things like coffee, tea or smoking. Using it on a toothbrush from time to time is fine. However, frequent or prolonged use of baking soda as toothpaste can cause severe abrasion to tooth enamel, resulting in sensitivity and aesthetic problems. As enamel is eroded it will uncover the inner yellow surface of the tooth (dentin), which is extremely sensitive and not as strong when it comes to resisting tooth decay. It can also scratch porcelain restorations like crowns or veneers as well as gold crowns.
10% Carbamide Peroxide
Carbamide peroxide is a gel peroxide formula that is available over the counter for use on oral wound care (Gly Oxide). This same gel has a whitening effect on the teeth and is used in over the counter whitening trays. This gel can be purchased and worn in existing trays or used on the toothbrush to brush on the teeth. Extended use could cause tooth sensitivity and careful attention should be paid to preventing overexposure to oral tissues so that irritation will not occur. Product manufacturers recommend not using this product for more than 7 days as an oral care product, so it may not be suitable for long-term whitening.
Hydrogen peroxide is an ingredient used in many professional and at home whitening products. It has also been used as a mouthwash and is safe as long as it is not swallowed. Unfortunately it is not good to use routinely as a wash because it has a negative effect on natural flora in the mouth. One side effect of routine hydrogen peroxide rinsing is “black hairy tongue”, which looks exactly like it sounds.
Lemons and Limes
Lemons and limes have been recommended for whitening by rubbing them or holding them against the front teeth. This does whiten teeth, but the whitening appearance is from erosion and etching of the tooth enamel from the acid in this fruit. Dentists are often able to easily identify patients that suck or chew on lemons because of the severe erosion of the enamel in the front of the mouth. The tooth appearance is similar to that in bulimic patients. This causes increased tooth sensitivity, removes enamel structure, and is irreversible.
Strawberries have also been used similar to lemons, or even mashed for brushing like a paste. The acid and sugar content in the berries can contribute to tooth decay, so fluoride should always be used after.
Wood ash is not as common but has also been recommended for brushing or adding to toothpaste because the tiny crystals help to remove surface stains. This is also very erosive and can cause enamel abrasion, not to mention it may be a less sanitary option.
Any at-home whitening remedies should be used with caution, in limited amounts. Ingesting material like carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide can cause internal problems. Alternative methods also easily cause enamel abrasion or erosion, which cannot be reversed and will lead to sensitive, yellow teeth. These teeth will also be at an increased risk for tooth decay. Using a fluoride supplement in addition to any whitening regime can strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay or decalcification.