Chapter 5: Natural methods to preserve or whiten your teeth

Reviewed by Dr. Joseph Salim, DMD (written by the Sutton PDA editor)


Since this guide is not just any guide 😉 but a definitive one, we had to include some information on:

  • Foods that protect your choppers
  • and natural teeth whitening methods.

In your pursuit of a sparkling smile you may be tempted to test some natural methods.

The absence of any bleaching chemicals and their low cost, certainly makes them attractive.

Maybe that a more alabaster smile is only an oil swish away?!

Let’s explore whether what we eat can protect our teeth’s natural shade.

During the second part of the chapter we will learn what science says about some DYI and natural whitening methods.

Foods that preserve your teeth

Which foods protect your ivory grin?

Are foods a level playing field when it comes to staining?

Unlikely, right?

I mean, you do not even have to scratch far below the surface to see that not all of them will discolor your pearly whites (see also What can I eat or drink after teeth whitening?) … so it is not suprising that some will, and others will not, protect your teeth.

Let’s see which ones can help you maintain their natural ivory shade.

Here are your allies when trying to protect your gleaming smile:

  • Apples, celery, pears, almonds, and carrots. Since they are high in fibers, when you chew them, they will have the same effect as a natural toothbrush.
    The fibers will act as “micro toothbrushes”, scrubbing the surface of your teeth.
    They also stimulate the production of saliva which neutralizes acids produced by bacterial food fermentation.
  • Cacao, cauliflowers, rhubarb, broccoli, spinach, carrots. They are rich in oxalic acid, hence the odd feeling in your mouth, after consuming them.

    Oxalic acid forms calcium oxalate, which in turn creates a protective layer covering the tooth.
    You should avoid these foods if you suffer from gout or renal insufficiency.

Let’s now learn about the science (or lack of thereof) for certain natural teeth whitening methods.

DIY, natural teeth whitening methods

What is the best and safest DIY method of whitening your teeth?

Thinking about something new and exotic?

Let’s keep things simple instead.

Although not very exciting, proper, routine oral hygiene, with regular brushing and flossing of your teeth, are tried-and-true methods.

How do they work?

They will avoid food and bacteria hardening into plaque, which will then stain your teeth.

Ideally, you should brush and floss your teeth after every meal or snack.

And a special warning for the gluttons…

Avoid frequent snacking, if you cannot brush your teeth and floss them regularly.

Next, we will talk about hydrogen peroxide gargling.

Can I whiten my teeth just by rinsing my mouth with hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is used in many OTC and professional teeth whitening products (see also How are carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide used in dentistry?).

Nobody can object to that.

So, using it as is, will be even more effective right?

Not so fast.

This approach would not whiten your teeth.

Using undiluted hydrogen peroxide may also cause serious damage to your soft tissues including gums, and even your teeth.

Instead, consider swishing with hydrogen peroxide mouthwashes. Albeit, you will need to be perseverant and use them over several months to see an effect.1

Can I use baking soda mixed with lemon juice, water, hydrogen peroxide, oranges or apple cider to whiten my teeth?

The whiteness of baking soda brings to mind the pure whiteness of an ideal sparkling grin.

Baking Soda Lemon
Lemon and baking soda

But what is baking soda?

It is a little alkaline and white product, with a crystalline structure.

The chemical compound’s name is sodium bicarbonate, and baking soda is the more common name.

So, is a pure bright white smile one spoonful of baking soda and lemon juice away?

Unfortunately, … not.

Baking soda mixtures will damage your enamel since they are abrasive.

Besides, lemon juice, orange or apple cider contain natural acids.

They may erode your teeth, weakening your enamel.

This is especially true of lemon juice since it is very acidic. It will make your teeth more prone to decay and sensitivity.

So, moving beyond the evocative immaculate whiteness of baking soda, the unvarnished reality is that …

The cumulative effect of the acids and baking soda may lead to permanent loss of your enamel.

Even though your teeth may look whiter and shinier in the short term, in time, they may darken. This is due to the underlying dentin becoming more visible through a thinner enamel layer.

You could also get dark spots if you decide to brush your teeth with baking soda while wearing braces or permanent retainers.

Remember also that a thinner layer of enamel makes your teeth more prone to cavities.

By now, you must be objecting that “surely baking soda can also do some good.”

For instance, maybe, because of its alkaline characteristics, it will kill bacteria and help you prevent cavities.

Not really, you will have to brush your teeth with toothpaste, after using baking soda.

Let’s see now see whether mixing it with less acidic fruits can be useful (?)

Can I use baking soda mixed with strawberries to whiten my teeth?

We are fortunate enough to have a recent study that can help us answer the question.

In a 2015 study2, the efficacy of baking soda mixed with strawberry (DIY method) was compared to standard whitening procedures.

These included:

  • OTC methods, following manufacturers’ instructions;
  • dentist-dispensed whitening products for home use;
  • in-office teeth whitening.

What did the authors find?

The lowest lightening effect was obtained with the baking soda strawberry mixture (DIY) method.

And this, notwithstanding the abrasive nature of baking soda.

Okay, … That’s all we have to say about baking soda and its mixtures.

Let’s now talk about fruits containing digestive enzymes.

Will fruits with digestive enzymes, like pineapple and mango, improve teeth whitening?

Have you read the effects of natural enzymes being touted in health magazines?

Sorry to disappoint you.

There is no scientific proof about their effects on teeth whitening.

But eating fruits regularly is a very healthy choice for sure!

Next, we will investigate charcoal’s potential role in teeth whitening.

Is charcoal powder useful for teeth whitening?

Unfortunately, another bummer …

Charcoal purported teeth whitening virtues are also not backed by science.

There is no evidence that scrubbing your teeth with charcoal powder will lighten them.

A 2017 review article3 in the Journal of the ADA showed that:

  • There is limited data to make claims about its efficacy and safety;
  • some results seem to show a negative effect. Because of its abrasive nature, the enamel layer wears out. It becomes thinner, and dentin (which is more yellow) shows through.

Last on the list is oil pulling … Continue reading.

Can oil pulling or swishing your mouth with natural oils help you whiten your teeth?

The ADA does not recommend oil pulling as a replacement for dental therapy.4

Where you hoping for more?

Stay with us because all is not lost 😉 …

Meaning that it could have some positive effects on your health.

Despite the limited evidence, some studies show that you can improve your oral hygiene by swishing oil.5

Coconut oil

By “pulling out bacteria” this procedure may help you reduce:

  • Plaque formation,
  • inflammation of the gums.

However, you need to use it regularly and correctly.6

It has been shown that oil swishing may reduce the presence of the two groups of bacteria that cause fermentation:7

  • Streptococcus mutans,
  • and Lactobacillus species.

Hence, they initiate caries and inflammation of the gums.

Yes, nothing less!

The result is pain, potential tooth loss, and infections.

Several studies show a preventive efficacy of oil-pulling in:

  • Reducing plaque formation,
  • and plaque-induced inflammation of the gums.

Moreover, in some other studies, the effect of oil swishing was not inferior to that of a chlorhexidine-containing mouthwash.8 9

Do you know what chlorhexidine is?

It is an antiseptic compound considered the “gold standard” to treat oral infections.

It can help prevent tooth decay.

Unfortunately, it has a bad taste, and stains teeth brown.

So, maybe that oil swishing could be a better alternative.

Are different oils providing similar benefits or are there differences?

… Let’s see.

Olive, sesame, sunflower and coconut oils effects of teeth whitening?

If you enjoy Mediterranean cuisine, you must be using it all the times.

But the benefits of olive oil, do not stop at its fragrance.

Instead, its constituents have “antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, and antioxidative effect.”10

And if you are an aficionado of Asian food …

Then you may be curious to learn that sesame seeds oil does not just enhance foods with natural flavors and aromas.

Instead, sesame oil, which “contains:

  • Sesamin,
  • sesamolin,
  • sesaminol”

also has detoxification, antioxidant, and antibiotic actions.11

For instance, it was shown to have antibacterial properties against Streptococcus mutans.12

Now, this strain (see previous section Can oil pulling or swishing your mouth with natural oils help you whiten your teeth?) is one of the culprits when it comes to caries and periodontitis.

Of equal importance is sunflower oil’s role.

It displays antimicrobial activity against C. albicans.

This is a yeast that plays a role in the formation of children’s plaque and caries.13

Finally, we should talk about the beneficial properties of coconut oil.

These may be due to the presence of lauric acid (a fatty acid). Approximately 45-53% of coconut oil is made of this fatty acid.14

Now, lauric acid shows several interesting properties:

  • for one, it has antimicrobial characteristics against gram-positive bacteria and several fungi and viruses. For instance, coconut oil was active against both Streptococcus mutans and C. albicans.15
  • It “can react with alkalis present in saliva, to form sodium laureate-soap like substance, which reduces plaque adhesion and accumulation, and possesses cleansing action.”16

You may thus want to consider a more natural, safer approach to protect your teeth and gums.

Oil pulling may not be just the latest craze.

Edible oils may replace artificial, chemically produced antiseptics while maintaining oral hygiene, without any side effects.

Are you going to give oil swishing a try?

If so, how do you do it practically?

How do you actually do oil pulling? What is the procedure?

According to published literature17, you may use the following steps to carry out oil pulling:

  1. Take a tablespoon full of oil. You can use a teaspoon if your child undertakes the procedure.
  2. Swish the oil around your mouth for about 20 minutes. Ideally, you should do this before breakfast and with an empty stomach.
  3. If your jaw aches, consider reducing the time to 5-10 minutes.
  4. You should adopt a sitting position with chin up.
  5. Ensure that when you swish it, the oil is forced through your teeth.
  6. If done correctly, the oil should become milky white.
  7. Spitting it out in a paper towel or trashcan to avoid clogging the pipes.
  8. Do not swallow the oil as it contains bacteria and toxins.
  9. You should then consider rinsing your mouth with water and proceed with routine tooth brushing.

Oil pulling is not recommended if you have children under 5 years of age, because of the risk of inspiration.

Final remarks

This is was the last article of the Teeth Whitening: The Definitive Guide for 2020 series.

Have you read all the chapters?

If so, how do you feel?

Ecstatic right?

That is not surprising, because you have reached the state of “infinite teeth whitening knowledge”.

😉 Hey, here at SPDA we are amused by simple jokes.

On a more serious note, if you have not read all the chapters, you can find them here below:

Please leave us your feedback in the comments.

Anything else you want us to write about?

Any questions?

Just let us know in the comments!


  1. Efficacy of Mouthwashes Containing Hydrogen Peroxide on Tooth Whitening. Muhammet Karadas and Omer Hatipoglu. ScientificWorldJournal. 2015; 2015: 961403.
  2. NCBI – Efficacy of do-it-yourself whitening as compared to conventional tooth whitening modalities: an in vitro study
  3. JADA – Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices
  4. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review
  5. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review
  6. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review
  7. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review
  8. NCBI – Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study.
  9. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review
  10. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review
  11. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review
  12. Thaweboon S., Nakaparksin J., Thaweboon B. Effect of oil-pulling on oral microorganisms in biofilm models. Asia J Public Health. 2011;2:62–66.
  13. Thaweboon S., Nakaparksin J., Thaweboon B. Effect of oil-pulling on oral microorganisms in biofilm models. Asia J Public Health. 2011;2:62–66.
  14. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society – The Properties of Lauric Acid and Their Significance in Coconut Oil
  15. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review
  16. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review
  17. NCBI – Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *