Remember when Crest Whitestrips first skyrocketed into popularity in the early 2000s and seemingly everyone had white teeth? I jumped on the bandwagon too—until one whitening session I remember oh-so vividly, the one when I felt a blast of excruciating nerve pain on my front tooth and frantically tore off the gooey strip that was supposed to make my oral cavity resemble Barbie’s. These days, there are a lot more natural teeth whitening alternatives that will get you that sparkling smile without any of the scary pain or risks. But what’s the best option?
First: The Disadvantages of Traditional Bleaching
Whether you’re at the dental office or using a home-use whitening kit, your teeth are likely being doused in hydrogen peroxide, which is the active bleaching agent that removes stains on both the surface and deeper into the tooth. Many times the formula contains carbamide peroxide, which then breaks down to hydrogen peroxide.
Although hydrogen peroxide in whitening products hasn’t been shown to cause any long-term health concerns, many people experience short-term discomforts: increased sensitivity, gum irritation and burning, or that unexpected nerve shooting sensation. Even after the session is over, you might feel like your teeth can’t handle a sip of water nor are able to chew on food that’s too hot or too cold.
Then there’s also your enamel, your teeth’s outer coating.
“In order to whiten teeth, peroxide breaks up stain molecules in dental enamel. However, in doing so, it contributes to wearing down the enamel,” says Mira Kothari, co-owner of POPWHITE SMILE.
Another potential issue, especially if you’re using bleach-infused, self-administered products such as strips, trays, or pens, is you can totally overdo it, making your choppers look glow in the dark rather than a natural, healthy white.
3 Natural (but Just As Effective) Teeth-Whitening Treatments
A great way to whiten teeth is without bleach, which means only the tooth’s surface is targeted by either counteracting the color or physically or chemically “activating” stain removal with certain ingredients. Here are three that work without any of those nasty side effects (without you worrying about the potential dangers of chemicals):
1. POPWHITE SMILE Primer and Toner
This color-correcting toothpaste and mouthwash combo is ingenious—and it works. Rather than using stain-dissolving chemicals, POPWHITE literally infuses the color purple onto your grill to neutralize the yellow (like using green concealer to cancel out red blemishes). The toothpaste, which the company refers to as primer, and mouthwash, which it calls toner, are physically purple—and include xylitol and coconut oil to protect dental enamel and promote beautiful, glossy teeth.
Clinical trials demonstrate that POPWHITE Primer and POPWHITE Toner, when used together twice a day for fourteen days, whiten teeth an average of four shades, according to Mira Kothari, co-owner of POPWHITE SMILE. “Inspired by the art and science of beauty, POPWHITE was born when an innovative makeup artist and an experienced dental scientist had the bright idea to whiten smiles naturally with premium oral care products built around an exclusive purple formula.”
POPWHITE products are vegetarian and cruelty-free.
2. Tom’s of Maine Luminous White Toothpaste
Tom’s of Maine Luminous White natural whitening toothpaste harnesses a substance called hydrated silica, which is purified and naturally derived from a compound that forms on and comprises about 12% of the earth's surface. According to Pam Scheeler, chemist and stewardship manager at Tom’s of Maine, the company has tested naturally derived toothpaste ingredients for 47 years and ultimately determined hydrated silica—used as the central point of its clinically proven whitening technology—was the crème de la crème of smile brighteners.
“The hydrated silica clean and polishes the surface of the tooth to reduce and remove surface stains, but does not alter the tooth itself. Luminous White whitens teeth in two weeks as opposed to regular fluoride toothpaste using only naturally derived ingredients,” explains Scheeler.
Luminous White contains zero artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Plus it's gluten-free.
3. Activated Charcoal
If you have a toothpaste you’re already loyal to but need to undo the discoloration on your teeth, you can always rely on activated charcoal. The black powder, which absorbs even the most infinitesimal stain-causing food particles, is also fantastically natural way to maintain lustrous teeth if you already have them. Try Active Wow’s Teeth Whitening Activated Coconut Charcoal Powder, which boasts four-and-a-half out of five stars on Amazon from over 10,800 customers. However, experts warn not to use activated charcoal on your teeth daily as it can leach minerals. Use it like a whitening treatment, once or twice per month.
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