We’d all love to have a glistening-white smile like Julia Roberts or Matt Damon. White teeth make you feel healthier, younger, more confident, and ready to walk the red carpet. But at-home kits and inpatient dental treatments don’t just cost you financially—they can cost you your health, too.
In large doses, bleach and hydrogen peroxide can burn your gums and cause sensitivity, even if you’ve never had sensitive teeth in the past. Those who have gum disease may experience worsening symptoms after having their teeth bleached. Even seemingly benign products like whitening toothpaste may have abrasive particles that eat away at tooth enamel.
Not so glamorous.
There are cheaper, healthier ways to enjoy the pearliest version of those whites. Here are nine all-natural, inexpensive ways to keep your teeth sparkling.
Brush after eating
Teeth discolor for two reasons: outward stains like coffee, tea and cigarettes making their way in; and dentin (the dark, inner structure of a tooth) becoming more visible as enamel wears away. You can do away with the former if you make sure to get cleanings at the dentist at least every six months (every three if you’re a heavy smoker), and brush after consuming anything with the potential to stain.
Drink through a straw
A staining agent has to make contact with your teeth to darken them. Drinking through a straw will get the liquids in question (biggest offenders are tea, coffee and red wine) right down your gullet without messing up that smile.
Also, bonus points if you actually use a straw to sip your wine next time you’re out. If you want to take things another step further, celebrity dentists swear by keeping Vaseline on-hand to swab your teeth with before drinking a stain-carrying liquid. The Vaseline functions as a barrier for your teeth, keeping them free of discoloration.
Gargle with apple cider vinegar
You can get a gallon jug of apple cider vinegar for a few bucks (or make your own), and never have to buy mouthwash again. Gargle with this to break up stains and kill bacteria. Follow with a shot of the stuff every day for an all-around cure-all.
Make your own toothpaste
Baking soda is a great house cleaner, deodorizer, and whitener. It’s also extremely inexpensive and makes a perfect, natural toothpaste. Just mix together two parts coconut oil, one part baking soda, and a few drops of an essential oil like peppermint. Baking soda will work on stains, while the oil will hydrate your gums.
Swish with peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is an active ingredient in every tooth-whitening system; including what doctors paint onto your teeth to reach with light during laser whitening.
Mix 1:1 hydrogen peroxide and water for a great mouth rinse that will clean your mouth, get rid of germs and help to gently whiten stains.
Up your spice game
Turmeric is renowned for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties. It’s also a great whitener for teeth—just put some on your wet toothbrush, brush normally, and leave the spice on your teeth for five minutes before rinsing off. Some claim to see results in as soon as one week using this method.
If you haven’t already, start oil pulling
The benefits of oil pulling are too numerous for a subhead. Suffice to say, this 3,000-year-old Ayurdevic practice is popular for many reasons, not the least of which being its amazing ability to whiten your teeth, make your gums healthier and may even fight evil mouth bacteria.
The best, least expensive oil for pulling is coconut—just swish two teaspoons of oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes (that’s enough time for you to shower and get dressed), spit the oil out into your compost bin, rinse your mouth out with warm water, and brush thoroughly.
Activate some charcoal
Go bananas - literally
This one’s not scientifically proven (yet!), but it’s not bad for you so can’t hurt to try if you’ve got some bananas lying around. Just take the peel and rub the inside of it against your teeth, let sit 10 minutes, and brush your teeth to get all that banana paste off.
Even if it doesn’t whiten your teeth, eating the banana inside the peel will give you a nice boost of potassium, magnesium and manganese.