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Natural teeth whitening trends: Do they work?

Activated charcoal. Oil pulling. Apple cider vinegar. If you’re like us, you’ve probably heard of these trendy natural teeth whitening methods. So, what are they exactly? And do they actually work? We consulted SmileDirectClub’s Lead Dentist, Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD, to find out what’s safe and what’s not.

Activated charcoal

What is it? Activated charcoal is, well, common charcoal that contains peat, coal, wood, petroleum, and other ingredients. You can use it either by mixing activated charcoal powder with water and brushing on teeth, or by purchasing one of a number of charcoal toothpastes on the market.

How does it work? When heated with gas, charcoal becomes activated, making it more porous and allowing it to trap chemicals more effectively than regular charcoal. It’s precisely these chemical-trapping properties that are purported to remove toxins and stains from teeth to make them whiter. Actually, the benefits of charcoal’s toxin-sucking properties have been commonly utilized in poison control and to combat drug overdoses for years.

But does it work? We took this question to Dr. Sulitzer. “There are significant risks associated with brushing with activated charcoal. Charcoal powder is extremely abrasive, which means it could be causing significant damage to your tooth enamel,” he explains. “Even if you don’t see any tooth erosion right away, it could become more prominent with repeated use. And once your enamel is gone, it’s not coming back.”

Oil pulling

What is it? Oil pulling is the practice of swishing a tablespoon of liquefied coconut oil around your mouth for 10–20 minutes to whiten teeth.

How does it work? According to Dr. Axe, oil pulling is a technique that’s been employed for centuries to treat everything from gum disease to cavities to bad breath. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that suck impurities from your mouth, leaving you with, among other benefits, shiny white teeth.

But does it work? “The coconut oil itself isn’t causing any harm, and the simple act of swishing liquid around and between your teeth and gums probably does remove some stubborn bacteria,” Dr. Sulitzer says. “Just make sure oil pulling doesn’t replace commonsense dental hygiene practices. Continue to brush and floss at least twice a day, and visit your dentist for routine cleanings every 6 months.” 

Apple cider vinegar

What is it? A common kitchen staple, apple cider vinegar has become a starlet in recent years for its ability to be used as an all-purpose cleaner, a natural deodorizer, and a facial toner (not to mention an essential base for many vinaigrette salad dressings). When apple cider vinegar is mixed with baking soda and applied to teeth as a paste, or when it’s simply swished around the mouth for a few minutes, it works to remove the toxins and stains that darken your teeth’s dentin, making your smile brighter. 

How does it work? Apple cider vinegar is a product of crushed, fermented apples. It contains, among other things, amino acids, antioxidants, a little bit of potassium, proteins, enzymes, and good bacteria that make it a natural cleansing powerhouse. 

But does it work? Again, let’s consult the pro. “It’s true that apple cider vinegar is a good cleaner overall,” Dr. Sulitzer says. “But it’s important to remember that it’s very, very acidic. Using it too frequently can start to erode tooth enamel, which not only causes tooth sensitivity, but may actually make the surfaces of the teeth appear darker over time as the shiny outer layer breaks down. If you do use apple cider vinegar, do so sparingly.”

The best teeth whitening

Stick with a hydrogen peroxide–based product for teeth whitening, says Dr. Sulitzer. “Time and time again, hydrogen peroxide has proven to be the most effective ingredient for whitening teeth. Plus, it doesn’t smell, stain, or contain harmful abrasives.”

That’s where SmileDirectClub’s hydrogen peroxide–based bright on™ premium teeth whitening gel comes in. bright on gently and effectively gets your teeth to their whitest white. In fact, just 1 round of bright on whitening lasts 3 months. bright on will get you the same results as the pros – for half the cost. Now that’s a shiny bright smile you can feel totally good about.

Get bright on

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