Rubbing Oranges on Your Teeth, and Other Harmful Whitening ‘Hacks’
Who doesn’t want whiter teeth? On the other hand, who wants to volunteer for extra dentist visits, with all the time and expense they involve? Fortunately, Pinterest and TikTok are here to swoop in and provide alternatives—pretty much none of which are good ideas.
Don’t rub orange peels on your teeth
One of the most popular teeth-whitening hacks these days says that you should rub orange peels on your teeth. In some versions, the hack can be done with lemon peels or even banana peels instead.
Orange peels are acidic, and some will say the whole point is to expose your teeth to citric acid to clean them. The only problem: Acid is terrible for your enamel. Fruit “is a great dietary choice but saturating your teeth with fruit acids isn’t a great idea,” an American Dental Association spokesperson told USA Today. The acid can dissolve the enamel of your teeth, which is damage you can’t really reverse.
Don’t expect coconut oil to whiten your teeth
Swishing melted coconut oil around your mouth is a traditional oral care routine called “oil pulling” that many people swear by. It can probably serve a similar purpose as mouthwash, but it doesn’t do anything magical and isn’t known to whiten teeth.
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Don’t expect big results from peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is well known for its bleaching properties, and super-concentrated versions are commonly used for bleaching hair. It’s also used in professional whitening products.
You can buy a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide at the drugstore, so why not brush or rinse with it to whiten your teeth? Unfortunately, there’s no evidence supporting the idea that it’s a safe and effective tooth whitener. (Toothpastes with hydrogen peroxide can result in whiter teeth over time, but they take a very long time to work and tend to only whiten teeth by a minimal amount. You may never notice the difference.)
There are a variety of toothpaste recipes out there. Baking soda is used in some whitening toothpastes and may be effective as a light abrasive (scrubbing off stains) when used sparingly. But please do not mix baking soda with strawberries, or other acidic fruits like lemon juice or kiwis. Those recipes have the same issues as the orange-peel hack: Acid is bad for your teeth.
Don’t make an abrasive toothpaste
If the small amount of abrasiveness from baking soda can help whiten your teeth, it stands to reason that more abrasiveness must get your teeth even whiter. Right?
You can probably guess what’s wrong with this logic. Grinding off the surface of your teeth is not a thing where more is better. I found TikTok recipes for combining baking soda with lemon juice and salt, and for scrubbing your teeth with powdered charcoal, both of which dentists consider excessively abrasive. The American Dental Association points out that using abrasive products can make your teeth more yellow by thinning or removing your enamel, and that abrasive toothpastes can also cause injuries to the soft tissues of your mouth.
Of all the TikTok recipes, I have to admit my favorite was this one in which a woman combines several of the ingredients found in DIY teeth whitening hacks. She mixes cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, mint, and yogurt…then goes and gets her teeth professionally whitened and comes home and eats the concoction she made. “Thanks for watching my tzatziki recipe!”