When it comes to my health and self-care routine, my smile is important to me, and I can get super self-conscious about tooth staining and bad breath. However, I also loathe harsh drugstore whitening strips (can you say ouch?), and instead prefer natural teeth whitening options when possible.
According to a study out of USA Today, the majority of us notice teeth first when meeting new people. And while I wish I could say I was above noticing something so relatively superficial, I'd be lying if I said a great smile wasn't super attractive to me. And while there truly isn't any solid evidence to suggest that bleaching our teeth is bad for us per say, according to an article in Prevention, there is a very real phenomenon of mouth pain and discomfort associated with bleaching, along with side effects like gum irritation, bluish enamel, uneven whiteness, and — if the bleach leaks into a crack or partially filled tooth—painful internal damage that can lead to root canals.
Basically, as much as I love white teeth, I'm kind of a wimp and just have no desire to deal with an uncomfortable or even painful mouth situation. If you're like me and want a less-aggressive route to a healthier-looking and feeling mouth, here are seven natural hacks that should help.
1. Green Tea
According to a study out of Japan featured in Best Health Magazine, test subjects who regularly drank green tea had healthier gums than those who didn't. Similarly, a study out of Egypt found that subjects who rinsed with green tea for five minutes had less acid and bacteria in their mouths than test subjects who didn't. So yet another reason out there to incorporate green tea into your routine!
2. Mint Tea
This probably won't come as a huge surprise to any of us, but according to Registered Dietician Megan Ware in a piece for MedicalHealthNewsToday.com, mint is a natural anti-microbial agent, and therefore also a natural breath freshener. Basically, there's a reason why it's so popular in toothpastes and breath freshening products. Drink some mint tea after a meal, or consider an all-natural mint gum with real mint oil.
In a Redbook piece on foods that whiten teeth, Dr. Irwin Smigel, president of the American Society for Dental Aesthetics, said that the malic acid in strawberries acts as a natural astringent, which helps to remove surface discoloration on teeth. So if tooth staining is a particular concern for you, you may want to consider upping your strawberry intake.
4. Seeds And Nuts
In the same Prevention piece, Dr. Matthew Messina, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, noted that the chewy and "slightly abrasive" texture of nuts and seeds is great for helping to rub stains and plaque off your teeth. So grab a handful of trail mix with those strawberries, and you'll really be in business.
5. Brush With Turmeric
OK, this one might seem a little crazy — especially since the bright yellow spice turmeric actually stains skin and fabric. However, several very well-reputed health bloggers — including Heather "Mommypotamus" and The Wellness Mama have listed it on their site as an all-natural teeth whitening method. Mommypotamus said to simply wet your toothbrush in 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder, brush as normal, and then allow the powder to sit on your teeth for 3-5 minutes before rinsing. Then brush with your normal toothpaste as usual. She says you should start to see a difference within a week or so if done daily.
6. Coconut Oil Pulling
You may have heard of this one before, even if you're not quite sure what it is. According to The Wellness Mama, "The basic concept here is swishing oil (like sesame or coconut) in the mouth for 20 minutes to help remove plaque and bacteria from the mouth. Coconut oil has been proven effective against the streptococcus mutans bacteria that contributes to cavities and gum disease." Certified doctor of natural health Dr. Josh Axe explains specifically how to do oil pulling in the above how-to video.
7. Limit Stain-Causing Beverages
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it's an incredibly simple way to avoid the need for teeth whitening in the first place. According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the main causes of plaque buildup and bacteria in the mouth is the consumption of certain drinks, like milk, coffee, and soda, and that the sipping of soda specifically throughout the day creates a "continual acid bath" over your teeth. Try replacing your afternoon soda with seltzer and rinse your mouth with water after you drink coffee or teas.
While feeling self-conscious about your mouth is never fun, the good news is there are a ton of things you can do to easily maintain better tooth and gum health, and none of it requires harsh chemical bleaching. So if you're looking to improve your smile, grab some nuts and strawberries, a few herbal teas, and switch out a soda or two, and you're already making major progress!