The internet is a wonderful thing. You can buy anything you want. You can talk about anything you want. Learn pretty much anything you want.
These days, more and more people want to learn do-it-yourself tips and tricks. DIY lawn care. DIY plumbing (hopefully just minor stuff). DIY fitness (which used to just be called “fitness”). DIY remodeling. It’s gotten to the point that, if you can think of something that can be done, you don’t have to look far to find a “DIY hack” for it.
When it comes to your health though, it’s best to be careful before putting your trust in a set of DIY tricks. Even with something seemingly “minor” like whitening your teeth, you can end up doing more harm than good by coming up with your own way to save a few bucks.
How so? Here are some commonly recommended “natural” teeth whitening methods and how they can hurt you.
People have known about the amazing cleaning powers of baking soda for years, and it’s true that you may be able to create a baking soda paste by mixing in water that will make your teeth lighter and brighter. Seems like a no brainer, right?
Not so fast. The problem with a baking soda paste is that it is more abrasive than toothpastes and ADA-approved whitening products – both those found over the counter and at your dentist’s office. This abrasiveness can damage your teeth more than it helps them by rubbing away enamel and essentially whittling them down.
Acidic fruits can be fantastic natural teeth cleaners when eaten regularly. Because of this, a myth has taken root that you can safely whiten your teeth by combining acidic fruits with baking soda or another abrasive material. As the myth goes, you then use the mixture to scrub your teeth or simply let them soak in it for several minutes.
Perhaps you can already see some of the problems with this theory.
From the above, you already know that the abrasiveness of baking soda can be harmful. Adding fruit juice to the paste doesn’t change this.
What if you merely soak your teeth, though? Well, let’s think about that. You’re soaking your teeth in acid. Does that sound like a good idea? Not so much. While the acids in fruits are helpful in quick, small doses, soaking your teeth in them for several minutes at a time is practically begging for them to eat away at the enamel. In truly bad cases, people may even give themselves cavities.
Hydrogen Peroxide Soaks
The theory: mixing hydrogen peroxide with baking soda can create a safe and effective whitening paste if you soak your teeth in it. Generally, people suggest putting the soak in a mouthguard and keeping it on your teeth for about 10 minutes a day.
Why is this a bad idea? There are a couple of reasons.
First, let’s talk about mouthguards and hydrogen peroxide. If you use a generic mouthguard, rather than one that has been specifically fitted to your teeth by your dentist (which is what most people tend to do), there’s a good chance the hydrogen peroxide is going to reach areas it shouldn’t. Namely, it could touch and irritate your gums, or it could interact with exposed roots. Either way – not good.
Second, let’s look at hydrogen peroxide itself. The reason people use it in DIY mixes is because many approved whitening mixes have hydrogen peroxide in them. In the right amount, it can work wonderfully.
The problem is getting to a safe and effective percentage. Most people simply don’t have the right materials to measure out an accurate amount, and if you mess that up, problems can result.
Activated Charcoal Scrubs
It may sound crazy, but there are people who swear by charcoal scrubs. A quick Google search will net you all kinds of posts about how wonderful they are.
Hesitant? You should be.
Despite the people promoting them, there is absolutely no scientific evidence showing that they are safe and effective. You know what there is evidence of though? People having the enamel of their teeth scrubbed off because of how abrasive this technique can be.
Bottom Line: DIY Teeth Whitening That Hurts Your Teeth Doesn’t Save Money – It Costs More
We understand the allure of using cheap, readily-available materials to whiten your teeth. It’s easy, and it’s inexpensive. Moreover, some people have trouble trusting “chemicals” over methods that seem natural.
Unfortunately, there are problems with just about every “natural” DIY whitening tip out there. Those problems can end up costing you quite a bit in the long run if you require additional dental care. Compared to the price of using ADA-approved dental whitening methods, you’re almost guaranteed to spend more in the long run – something no one wants.