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Apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, activated charcoal, baking soda. They've all been used to whiten your teeth naturally. But is natural whitening harmful?

Is Natural Whitening Harmful?

There’s no problem with wanting a brighter smile. It’s tempting, especially when commercials say it’s a standard to aim for. Unfortunately, professional whitening services rarely come cheap. And those that do might not be as effective as they claim to be. It’s no wonder, then, why most people turn to natural whitening methods to get the job done. But is natural whitening harmful?

Through the years, there have been many natural whitening methods that have gone in and out of fashion. Whether it’s drinking apple cider vinegar before you brush your teeth, or placing a baking soda paste on your teeth, you’re sure to find many household substances shoe-horned into a whitening technique. 

Yes, they’re cheaper than your professional and commercial varieties. And yes, they do have their fair share of benefits. But like most things, they’ve got some disadvantages to boot. And when taking care of your teeth, they’re a serious thing to consider.

How harmful, then, are these natural whitening techniques? Let’s look into them further. 

  1. Apple cider vinegar
    • The technique: Drink a glass of diluted apple cider vinegar every day before your meals. Typically, you want to mix five parts water to one part of vinegar.
    • The problem: Apple cider vinegar, as the name suggests, is quite acidic. And it doesn’t just contain one type of vinegar, either—aside from bringing in the malic acid found in apples, it also has acetic acid, too. And the effects are potent if you made use of an undiluted mix. While this acidic nature is what helps it whiten teeth in the first place, it’s also what makes this natural whitening technique harmful. 
  2. Coconut oil
    • The technique: Take a tablespoon of coconut oil (preferably virgin coconut oil) and keep it in your mouth. Slowly swish the substance around your mouth and through your teeth. After 10-20 minutes, spit it out. The oil presumably adheres to whatever is causing the stain, so your teeth should be brighter once you spit the oil out. 
    • The problem: Good news for all the oil-pullers there—technically speaking, this technique isn’t as harmful as the other methods are. But we wouldn’t count on its efficacy either. The connection between oil pulling and teeth whitening still needs more research. As for whether the oil does adhere to bacteria, that might need a little more scientific evidence as well.  
  3. Activated charcoal
    • The technique: With a teaspoon (or less) of activated charcoal, smear the substance onto your teeth or place some onto a toothbrush. Brush accordingly, then rinse. 
    • The problem: The thing about whitening is that it relies on abrasion. Basically, this means a substance’s ability to scrub off surfaces. Professional whitening treatments, on the other hand, usually use compounds that enter the enamel to break down stain build-up in the pores, making the teeth whiter. Activated charcoal, unfortunately, does not have this same effect. It’s usually used in medical emergencies for its highly absorbent properties, which make it helpful in cases of poisoning. Not so much when it comes to whitening teeth. Instead, it whitens teeth by scrubbing against the surface to remove the build-up, harming the enamel.  
  4. Baking soda
    • The technique: There are several ways to use baking soda in whitening teeth, and several combinations that do the job. (Here’s an article that lists down some ideas.) 
    • The problem: Much like the problem of activated charcoal, baking soda is also abrasive, which can break down the enamel. Mixed with other abrasive or acidic substances make it all the more potent. 

That said, don’t overdo these natural techniques, you might still be able to get the results you want without causing too much harm to your enamel. But to be sure, always consult your dentists. Better safe than sorry, after all.