Every time you log onto Facebook, there’s someone posting about some new natural way to total health, happiness, and prosperity. But while some of these DIY life improvements have a basis in reality, others aren’t so effective. “Natural” teeth whitening has been a concept for many years – but does it actually work? To understand how it functions, we’ll need to talk through the nature of tooth enamel, how it becomes stained, and how whitening affects your teeth.
How Teeth Get Stained
Your enamel is porous – there are tiny holes throughout its surface. This is where staining compounds from foods, drinks, and tobacco manage to lodge themselves, and then build up over time. Other than aging, this is the most common cause of a darkened/yellowed smile.
There’s another type of staining, which is internal. This occurs during tooth development, if you have certain antibiotics. Your enamel may also thin, which both minimizes the white color of your teeth and shows the yellow layer of dentin beneath. This is why aging commonly yellows teeth.
Do Natural Whitening Methods Work?
In order for your smile to be whiter, you need to either remove stains from your enamel, or cover over the stained portions with dental bonding, veneers, crowns, or other dental work. Natural whitening methods typically try to abrade enamel, which might have some kind of effect if it manages to clean off plaque, but will then actually damage your teeth. You never want to erode your teeth with any habit, food, or activity – that layer is all you’ve got protecting your teeth from outside forces.
Hydrogen peroxide whitening gels sink into your enamel’s pores, then react with oxygen to break up staining compounds. It’s this chemical reaction that makes them so effective. And while brushing your teeth with strawberries and baking soda might feel effective because of the gritty paste, it’s more likely to wear away your enamel (and ultimately darken your smile) than break up stains.