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Let’s face it — mornings are impossible without caffeine. Whether you go for coffee, black or green tea, or even kombucha, most of us need help jump-starting our busy days. Unfortunately, most forms of caffeine stain our teeth — as do sodas, wine, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and acidic foods like pasta sauce and tomato soup. Considering we’re not about to totally give up any of that good stuff, here’s how to keep teeth naturally white all day long.
Oil might stain clothes, but it does the opposite for teeth. “Oil pulling” is a traditional Indian method for natural teeth cleaning that involves a little bit of oil and a whole lot of swishing. Any edible oil works (sunflower, sesame, etc.), but we prefer coconut because it’s a natural antimicrobial and it tastes great. Simply put one tablespoon of liquid coconut oil in your mouth and sift it back and forth between your teeth for 15 to 20 minutes. (Toothy tip: Does this feel like a mouth mini-marathon? You can start with a couple of minutes and work up in time.)
Unlike many other tooth whitening methods, oil pulling doesn’t expose your teeth to acid or other ingredients that erode enamel. Your jaws might get tired, but your teeth will thank you.
That’s because coconut oil is one of the world’s best natural sources of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid. It busts bacteria in your mouth like nobody’s business. It’s especially effective at fighting Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus, the microscopic hooligans that cause stinky breath, cavities, and gum disease.
If your mouth — or any part of your body — has become the reluctant host to an uncomfortable yeast infection (oral thrush), coconut oil may help boot it out. In a 2015 study, it effectively reduced Candida albicans, a type of fungus that causes infections.
Unfortunately, there’s no scientific evidence yet that proves oil pulling whitens teeth, but studies do show that coconut oil reduces bacteria, plaque, and gingivitis. Either way, oil pulling is a safe practice and worth a try. People in India and Southern Asia have been doing it for thousands of years as part of a holistic, Ayuvedic belief that it purifies the mouth and body. Many dedicated oil pullers also claim their teeth are whiter and brighter after regular practice. (Psst — Did we mention that Cocofloss is also infused with antimicrobial coconut oil?)
Yes, you can buy toothpaste with baking soda in it, or you can get right to the point. In addition to using regular toothpaste, brushing with a homemade concoction of one teaspoon baking soda and two teaspoons water a few times a week will remove surface stains and help keep your mouth bacteria-free. Double-win!
How about this for a celebrity endorsement? Pretty Woman Julia Roberts uses baking soda to keep her megawatt smile bright.
While studies show that toothpaste with baking soda in it has a significant whitening effect, science hasn’t yet proven that brushing with plain baking soda whitens teeth. And be careful not to overdo it. As always, it’s important to be cautious of any abrasive material on your enamel.
One of the most common ingredients in store-bought whitening products is hydrogen peroxide, a natural bleaching agent. While it’s usually kept around the house to clean up cuts and scrapes, it also can be used to whiten teeth in very small doses. The two most common uses when it comes to oral hygiene are as a mouthwash or in a homemade toothpaste (two teaspoons hydrogen peroxide with one teaspoon baking soda).
It’s important with both of these methods to make sure the solution is diluted with water so that it’s only about 1.5% hydrogen peroxide. Overuse can erode enamel, so limit this hack to only one to two times per week. While no studies have proven the efficacy of hydrogen peroxide alone when it comes to teeth whitening, it’s a natural bacteria-killer, and studies do show that mixing it with baking soda can lead to whiter teeth over time.
While some foods are to blame for teeth yellowing (ahem, wine), other superfoods may be one of the best (and tastiest) natural ways to whiten teeth. Strawberries contain malic acid, a natural whitening agent. Tart fruits like oranges and pineapples, as well as crunchy apples, carrots, and celery all increase saliva production, which helps rinse away food residue.
Drinking water after staining beverages like coffee and wine also helps by washing away dark pigments before they settle into your teeth. And calcium-rich foods like cheese, milk, and yogurt strengthen the enamel that covers dentin, the naturally yellow part of teeth, preventing it from showing through. So go ahead and buy that fancy cheese — it’s for your health!
Sugary foods like candy and soda don’t just cause cavities, they also allow plaque and bacteria to take hold in your mouth, yellowing teeth. And the obvious culprits — wine, coffee, tobacco, and dark berries — aren’t doing your smile any favors. While everyone needs to indulge now and then (okay, now), we recommend practicing moderation when it comes to hard-to-avoid natural stainers.
Of course, the safest and most effective way to guarantee white teeth and an overall healthy smile is to brush and floss regularly. Flossing removes bacteria that can lead to yellowing plaque, and toothpaste helps rub away stains over time. (But avoid brushing immediately after an acidic meal or beverage — it can actually wear away enamel faster! Wait at least 30 minutes instead.)
Sometimes in order to clean something up, first you have to make a mess (hello, home organizing!). When it comes to your smile, one of the most popular methods for natural teeth-whitening involves activated charcoal (different than that stuff you put under a grill), which is used like a regular toothpaste and temporarily makes you look like an evil gremlin from a Disney cartoon.
It’s carbon content binds strongly to surfaces, making it a common oral treatment for overdoses and accidental poisonings for centuries. Some people believe it also binds to food and drink stains on teeth, hence its use as a topical stain remover.
Although lots of people swear by it, a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association concluded more research is needed to determine its efficacy. If you do try this hack at home, follow these tips to help protect your enamel: don’t use it every day or long term, make sure any products you use are FDA-approved, look for a charcoal toothpaste with relative dentin abrasivity, or RDA, of 60 to 90, and check with your dentist first.
It helps with weight loss, pet fleas, even clogged toilets — is there anything apple cider vinegar doesn’t fix? Despite its popularity, it might not be the best choice for whitening your teeth. ACV is full of acetic acid, which breaks down plaque and kills bacteria, but canalso erode enamel.
It’s thought to be successful at cleaning up after two of the most common types of stains: coffee and nicotine. (But seriously, don’t smoke in the first place.) ACV is used by “brushing” it on teeth with a finger for one minute, then rinsing with water before moving on to a normal toothpaste routine. If you do try this at home, it’s important to make sure you rinse it all off afterward and to only use ACV in moderation.
Alice Boghosian, a Chicago dentist and ADA spokesperson, definitely isn’t a fan. She told CNN, “You’re putting acid on your teeth … the last thing you’d want to do to promote oral health. Anything acidic which contacts your teeth will wear out the enamel, the protective coating, and that will cause cavities.”
Want a safe, easy, and effective way to keep your teeth white and free of cavity-causing bacteria? Floss! Woven with over 500 filaments, Cocofloss scrubs all the yellow gunk away to leave your teeth smooth, sparkling, and bright.