When you want to improve something about yourself, it’s tempting to give into the hype of easy, not-so-credible fixes (e.g., lose 10 pounds in a week by drinking only grapefruit juice!). But let’s be honest: How often do these fast fixes actually measure up? Not only might you waste time and money and get less-than-satisfying results, but you may also do more harm than good.
The same thing goes for whitening your teeth. “These days we see all these tips and tricks on the internet about keeping your smile white,” says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, dentist in New York City. “So I’ve seen patients experiment with home remedies. Some of them sound quite silly actually.”
Here are the most common myths Dr. Jablow has heard about teeth whitening, and how to find a treatment that *actually* works.
Myth: A banana peel can whiten your teeth
That’s right: Peel a banana, eat said banana, rub banana peel on your teeth? It might be the most delicious teeth whitening “remedy,” but unfortunately it’s more tasty than it is effective. “I don’t think that’s harmful, but it’s not really going to do anything,” says Dr. Jablow.
Myth: Strawberries can whiten your teeth
With this “remedy,” people are instructed to grind up strawberries, mix the puree with baking soda, and brush their teeth with it. They claim the malic acid in the strawberries helps remove stains. Sorry folks, but this strawberry fix may do more harm than good.
“We don’t want to use acid on our teeth,” says Dr. Jablow. “Acid is also going to wear away at the enamel and you want to keep your enamel intact and strong.”
Myth: Eating certain foods can whiten your teeth
Some people claim that eating fibrous, crunchy foods, like apples, celery, and carrots, can whiten teeth. While eating these foods is definitely good for your oral and overall health, it’s not going to help brighten those pearly whites. “They are really no foods per se that would actually whiten your teeth,” says Dr. Jablow.
These crunchy fruits and veggies do, however, act like nature’s toothbrush by helping to remove substances that are stuck on the surface of the teeth, she says. This may help you avoid staining your teeth further.
Myth: Whitening toothpastes work on their own
Using a whitening toothpaste seems like most efficient way to whiten your teeth, since you have to brush your teeth twice a day anyway, right? Unfortunately, whitening toothpastes generally just remove surface stains; they’re not going to whiten your teeth a few shades brighter, says Dr. Jablow. “When you look at the toothpaste and you go to the drugstore and you turn it around, you’ll see on the back there’s an asterisk that says ‘removes surface stains,’” she says.
For a product to whiten teeth from the inside out, it needs to contain peroxide, says Dr. Jablow. “So you actually need a whitening product first, and then you’re going to use a whitening toothpaste that has some mechanical abrasives to it. Then you gently scrub to remove the superficial stains and that’s maintaining your white smile.”
Myth: Whitening is a one-time procedure
Whether you opt for an OTC whitening option or an in-office procedure to whiten your teeth, it’s important to understand that all forms of teeth whitening require maintenance.
“Depending on your eating and drinking habits, and how porous your teeth are, you’re going to have to do something to maintain that level of whiteness,” says Dr. Jablow. “Three months down the road you might have to do a touch-up with some trays or some strips or some liquid gel boosters that you’ll add to your toothpaste.” Or,try this two-ingredient home remedy for whiter teeth(that actually works).
Along with maintaining that glittering grin, it’s even more important to keep your teeth healthy. That’s why it’s critical to brush your teeth twice a day (especially at night!) and floss every single day as well.