Your smile is the first impression a lot of people make about you. Having yellow stains on your teeth can make it hard to feel confident about your smile. There are several possible causes for yellowing, but the problem is not permanent.
What Causes Teeth Yellowing?
Some yellowing of the teeth is inevitable, especially as we age. Color changes usually occur gradually rather than overnight. Yellowing and darkening also happen when the tooth enamel erodes, exposing dentin, which is the bony tissue underneath.
Plaque buildup can cause yellowing, which is why regular tooth cleaning at the dentist’s office is so important. Some foods also can stain enamel; these include blueberries, coffee, tea, red wine, and foods high in carbohydrates and sugar.
Smoking and chewing tobacco will stain teeth, as will consuming too much fluoride. Yellowing is a potential side effect of some mouthwashes and medications, inadequate saliva production, mouth trauma, and genetics. Of course, poor oral hygiene and infrequent dental check-ups are partly to blame.
If you’re worried about yellow stains on your teeth and you’re not ready to seek a solution from your dentist, there are home remedies to try. These options are natural and safe if used in moderation.
Brush More Often
Perhaps the most natural remedy for stained teeth is to brush them more often. Assuming you already brush twice a day, do it one more time, probably after your mid-day meal. You still need to follow proper brushing techniques, such as avoiding hard bristles, not brushing too aggressively, and brushing for at least two minutes each time.
Watery Fruits and Vegetables
In addition to brushing, eating raw, crunchy vegetables and fruits high in water content can reduce plaque and bacteria. Fruits like pineapple and strawberries are particularly good for your teeth. Chomping down on these foods at the end of a meal helps produce the saliva that serves as a natural cleanser, removing the bacteria and plaque that leads to yellowing.
Activated charcoal is the fine powder from coconut shells, bone char, coal, sawdust, peat, and olive pits. Once known as a cure-all medicine for ridding the body of toxins, activated charcoal can remove stain-causing bacteria and toxins from teeth because it’s so absorbent.
To use, open a charcoal capsule, sprinkle the powder on your toothbrush, and brush in small circles for two minutes. Avoid touching the gums because the charcoal can be abrasive, which is also why you don’t want to brush too aggressively. Spit the charcoal out after the two minutes.
If your teeth are sensitive, you can try dabbing on the powder on your teeth and letting it sit instead of brushing. You also can mix the charcoal with water to form a mouthwash. Use the powder with caution because the science still isn’t clear about its effectiveness or how often you can use it safely.
Many kinds of toothpaste contain baking soda because of its natural whitening characteristics. It’s mildly abrasive so that it won’t whiten your teeth overnight. However, with regular use over time, you’ll probably see some results. You can concoct a homemade remedy by mixing one teaspoon of baking soda with two teaspoons of water. Use a few times per week.
Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria and is a natural bleaching ingredient in several commercial whitening products. If you use it at home, it needs to be diluted because high concentrations can irritate the gums and teeth. It’s safe to use a 1.5-3.0 percent solution as a mouthwash before brushing.
Try mixing hydrogen peroxide with baking soda to make a toothpaste combining one-part baking soda and two-parts hydrogen peroxide. Remember to rinse after brushing. You might see an improvement after about six weeks, but use it only a few times a week so that you don’t erode the enamel.
Banana, Lemon, and Orange Peels
The scientific evidence is lacking, but some people claim that rubbing banana, lemon, or orange peels on your teeth will whiten them. If there’s any scientific merit to the claim, it’s likely because of the compound d-limonene found in citrus peels, which is a natural whitening agent.
You can rub a peel on your teeth for a couple of minutes, but no more than that because the fruit acid can wear down your enamel. Make sure you thoroughly rinse afterward. Discontinue this method if your teeth develop extra sensitivity.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is known to reduce the yellowing of teeth. If you want to try this remedy, proceed with caution, and don’t use it for more than a few seconds. The vinegar can potentially damage tooth surfaces.
Mix two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and six ounces of water to make a mouthwash. Swirl it in your mouth for under 30 seconds, spit it out, and rinse and brush your teeth immediately afterward.
Oil pulling is an Indian folk remedy used to remove or “pull” toxins to improve oral health and other parts of the body. Research has shown that oil pulling rids the mouth of bacteria, plaque, and gingivitis. However, more scientific studies are needed to test its effectiveness.
Coconut oil is commonly used as a mouthwash for oral health and teeth whitening. Swish one or two teaspoons in your mouth for 10 to 30 minutes without swallowing the oil, and avoid spitting it down the sink because oil clogs the drain. Finally, rinse, drink a glass of water, and then brush your teeth.
At-home Whitening Products
If natural home remedies don’t work for you, consider commercial products, such as whitening toothpaste. It’s mildly abrasive but gentle enough to use daily. Whatever toothpaste you use, make sure it has the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of approval.
Whitening gels and strips with peroxide are available over the counter. They’re a viable alternative to professional bleaching at the dentist, but their effects don’t last as long. Gels are typically applied to the teeth with a small brush, and you have to wait a few days to see any effects, which last about four months.
Whitening strips are transparent and have a gel with a peroxide base. For the best results, apply the strips twice daily for 30 minutes. If you do this for two weeks, you should see results in a few days, and like the gel, they last for four months.
If you are considering a gel or strip whitening kit, be sure to use the product correctly to avoid damaging your teeth. Also, if you use them for too long, you risk wearing away the enamel.
Professional Teeth Bleaching
If you don’t get enough satisfaction from home-based or over-the-counter products, consider talking to your dentist about more potent treatments. Teeth bleaching might be appropriate for someone with severe staining. Talk to your dentist about pros and cons because the overuse of bleaching can cause tooth damage.
Stop Staining Before It Starts
Preventing some yellowing is possible if you limit certain foods, such as soda, red wine, coffee, and dark berries. Sugar-rich diets are also harmful to enamel because they increase the growth of bacteria that cause plaque and gingivitis.
If the thought of giving up these tooth-staining but enjoyable foods depresses you, just limit your consumption of them. If you love your diet soda, try drinking it through a straw or limiting direct contact with your teeth. Also, brush as soon as you can after eating sugary treats and other foods that discolor your teeth.
Tar and nicotine in tobacco products can cause yellowing. If you smoke or chew tobacco, tooth discoloration is another reason to consider quitting.
Preventing yellowing and discoloration depends a great deal on strengthening tooth enamel. Brushing regularly and eating calcium-rich foods like dairy and broccoli will protect the enamel and safeguard the dentin underneath.
Teeth will naturally undergo some amount of yellowing because of age, but you can prevent and treat more severe discoloration. There are natural, over-the-counter, and professional options for bringing your teeth closer to their original shine. Nevertheless, nothing can substitute for regular check-ups and good oral hygiene.