Everyone wants gorgeous white teeth. It’s part of having the perfect smile. Yet, many common foods, including some of our favorite “superfoods” can stain those pearly whites. According to The American Association for the Advancement of Science, Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on teeth whitening products. But you might have heard that whitening strips actually pose a health risk. Are they safe to use? And if not, what can you choose instead?
Make sure that, if you decide to whiten your teeth, you do so safely. I’ll break down what we know about the safety of tooth whitening.
Whitening Strips Stripping Tooth Dentin
Most over-the-counter whitening strips contain hydrogen peroxide. The same goes for whitening toothpaste. The hydrogen peroxide does the whitening. (Those readers over a certain age may remember hydrogen peroxide being commonly used to bleach hair. It’s the same idea.) But a study published in Experimental Biology says the hydrogen peroxide may harm teeth.
The study shows the hydrogen peroxide damages second-layer dentin. The second-layer dentin has high levels of protein. Ninety-five percent of that protein is collagen. The study shows the hydrogen peroxide is stripping away that collagen, harming your teeth.
Researchers conducted two different tests on the effects of hydrogen peroxide on teeth. In the first test, researchers applied one round or three rounds to teeth. The strips applied to teeth contained artificial saliva that was purified with a molecule that binds to calcium. The strips were left on the teeth for two weeks. It’s important to note this is much longer than most people leave whitening strips on their teeth. The researchers found the strips caused protein loss in teeth compared to the control group.
The second test again featured whitening strips. This time, the strips remained on for an hour. Just like the first test, researchers found fewer proteins because of the hydrogen peroxide.
Currently, there isn’t any research saying whether the damage is permanent or reversible. Researchers also warn the tests have yet to be peer-reviewed. This means the researchers are the only people who have conducted studies and there is nothing to compare with. We can wait and see what future studies emerge, or explore alternatives.
Ways to Whiten Teeth Naturally
If you still want to whiten your teeth, you’re in luck. There are plenty of ways to naturally whiten your teeth.
Strawberries contain malic acid, which removes surface discoloration. Even better: it doesn’t matter how you consume them. So whether you enjoy strawberries on a salad or on your cereal, you get the benefits.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts are rough in terms of their texture. The rough texture helps remove surface stains and maintains your stellar smile. As an added bonus, they provide ample protein and fight inflammation.
You may like the way cooked onions taste, but that won’t help whiten your smile. Eating raw onions helps stop plaque from forming on teeth. And if you don’t like the way raw onions smell, use it as an incentive to brush your teeth!
There’s nothing better than biting into a crisp apple. And that crispness of the apple helps protect your teeth. Apples can strengthen your gums, which can make your teeth stronger. The juiciness of an apple produces more saliva, which helps wash away bacteria that affects tooth health.
Celery and Carrots
Just like celery and carrots aid in weight loss, they can help whiten your teeth. Because they both have high water content, they help flush your mouth of any food debris while washing away harmful bacteria.
Cheese is high in calcium. Because some of that calcium is washed away with the hydrogen peroxide of regular whitening strips, having additional calcium could help restore your teeth.
If you’re looking for a way to stop dark-colored foods from staining teeth, water is your friend. Swish and swallow to prevent stains forming. Drinking extra fluids also prevents a buildup of harmful mouth bacteria. Just be sure it’s still water — not sparkling — as the bubbles can strip your teeth.
Milk and Yogurt
Just like cheese, milk and yogurt are high in calcium. The additional calcium can be a way to counteract any damage that may have been done by the hydrogen peroxide in whitening strips.
Use caution when buying any over-the-counter tooth whitening product. And until more scientific data is available, take advantage of less expensive, natural products that are also beneficial for your health.