Whiten Your Teeth Without The Strips

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A few weeks ago, I broke down and bought bright orange lipstick; it was supposed to be the key to my happiness. Upon entering Sephora, I was in my usual zone — "Go straight to Fresh's beauty section, get your perfume, and walk directly to the counter." I was under strict orders from myself and my checking account to not be sidetracked by the wall of nail polish or the tons of lipstick that would surely be calling my name. Now, I have a plethora of excuses as to why I didn't make it to the perfume immediately — the store was changed around, there was an adorable puppy roaming around — but the real reason was that I needed a rush only achieved by a spontaneous purchase. As soon as my card was accepted and before I could even sign, I was tearing into the bag and opening my new prized orange lipstick. I wore it out with confidence, strutting my stuff back to the subway, I couldn't help but hear the occasional cat call or whistle. I had to make sure this lipstick looked as good as I was feelin' — stat!

When I got back to my apartment, I was pleased at the result in the mirror before me ... that was, until I smiled. This lipstick was the pits! My teeth did not look white at all. In fact they looked duller than I remembered when I left the house. Granted, that was two iced coffees ago, but still.

Perhaps those whistles were an illusion stemming from my new shopping high ... or maybe they weren't for me at all, I fretted. Normally, I would chalk this up to a horrible beauty mistake and ditch the lipstick, but its friendly orange coloring made me think twice. Maybe the lipstick wasn't the problem; maybe red wine and coffee were taking away from the whiteness of my teeth. With my head hung low, I took my laptop to the bathroom with me. Clearly, before I went orange-lipped again, I had some investigating and whitening to do.

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Most of us know the most common reasons our teeth gets stained — food with added coloring, coffee, red wine, and those delicious sour straws will all do it. It's not just the coloring that can cause the dreadful stainage of your pearly whites; anything with a high acidity can break down the enamel, softening your teeth and making it easier for the food to latch on. Sad news for me, I make a yellow curry at least once a week that is def not helping me achieve the brightest smile.

Unless you have braces, brushing your teeth after every meal may sound like an unnecessary pain, but I mean that literally too.

It has been said that brushing right after a meal isn't the best idea because all that extra scrubbing can break down tooth enamel. A Huffington Post article suggests "The basic problem is that the sugar in foods is metabolized by the bacteria or plaque on enamel, producing acids that lead to gum disease and cavities." I am not about that life.

Nor am I about the teeth whitening strip life. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a cool $1.4 billion were spent on teeth whitening by Americans last year. My theory — based on nothing but my opinion, of course — is that at-home whitening treatments rarely work effectively, causing die-hard teeth whiteners to continue using the product repeatedly, offering up more of their hard-earned cash. I used teeth whitening strips when I was once in a bridal party at the Bridezilla's request. Not only did my teeth not get whiter, they also felt so sensitive after only the first week. In the end, I ended up drinking a bunch of coffee before the wedding and getting a real stern talking to from the bride anyway.

Obviously, I'm all about natural beauty — something that isn't incredibly prevalent in the dental industry. There is a reason people had shit teeth in the centuries before us. However, when combined with a great natural toothpaste, there are some great natural tricks to use for a teeth whitening treatment that will enhance your lipstick choices and keep a Bridezilla off your back.

Baking Soda, Peppermint Oil, Coconut Oil — Natural Toothpaste

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This is one of my favorite all natural tooth recipes from Wellness Mama. When you add about five teaspoons of calcium powder, this can be your daily toothpaste. Add two teaspoons of baking soda, which is highly alkaline so it neutralizes the acidity of common foods as well as provides a deep clean. Add a few drops of peppermint oil, a natural antiseptic and, of course, a source of fresh breath. Finally, add two teaspoons of coconut oil, which is great at extracting impurities and gives you a superb texture for your new toothpaste.

Orange Peel Buffer

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If you don't already know, the peels of oranges contain a high amount of vitamin C and calcium. This often discarded part of the orange has some serious cleaning properties as well. Harper's Bazaar suggests buffing your teeth with an orange peel about ten minutes before you brush those canines. You can dip the peels in peppermint oil too, for some extra flavor. Use this treatment three to four times a week and notice some serious shine to your smile.

Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

Lemons have natural bleaching properties, so it's unsurprising that this trick has been blowing up the Internet lately. This used to be a favorite of mine, and while sources say that the acidity of lemons can wear down your enamel, baking soda is highly alkaline so pairing the two should make for a safe, effective way to whiten your teeth when this treatment is used in moderation. Create a paste with baking soda, filtered water, and lemon juice and use up to three times a week for best results. Don't be scurred of the bitter taste — it's worth it!

Inevitably, our teeth will begin to yellow with age, just as our hair will begin to gray. Drink water frequently while you are sipping on that glass of Lambrusco and rinse your mouth with water after your iced coffee to help avoid premature yellowish teeth. Cheers!

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