If you've ever logged onto Pinterest or any other social media platform, you've no doubt seen some of the many trends, tricks, and recipes for easy, cheap, "at-home" or "DIY teeth whitening" treatments. 

We've invited esthetic dentist, Dr. Jaimeé Morgan, to discuss some of these popular DIY teeth whitening remedies to let us know what works, what doesn't, what is safe, and what to avoid. 

DIY Teeth Whitening Test #1: Brushing with Activated Charcoal 

(Insert photo "Activated Charcoal Immediately After" with caption: Brushing with activated charcoal leaves big mess, but does it work?)

Dr. Jaimeé Morgan: My big question is "why?" There's no science to show that brushing one's teeth with activated charcoal is better, safer, or more effective than toothpaste. I believe this trend may have started in extremely rural areas because there was nothing else to brush teeth with. It's kind of like if you lived in the desert. Sure, you could brush your teeth with sand or whatever is left of your campfire, and these things would maybe have the capability to remove extrinsic stains, but why? Additionally, it's a widely known problem among dentists that brushing your teeth with activated charcoal is a big mess, but it also likes to settle at the gingival margins. My hygienists then have to go in and scrape it out from the patient's gum line. It's very difficult to get out! In fact, my office manager and hygienist gave brushing with activated charcoal paste a whirl and the results weren't great, to say the least. We even used a plaque indicator after she brushed with the charcoal paste to show us how effective the paste was and the pictures speak for themselves. 

(Insert photo "Charcoal after rinsing" with caption "After brushing with activated charcoal and rinsing, difficult to remove charcoal residue is left in the patient's gingival margins and teeth.")

(Insert photo, "Charcoal with plaque indicator" with caption, "After rinsing, Dr. Morgan applied plaque indicator to the patients' teeth to show the effectiveness of the charcoal. The purple residue indicates leftover plaque on the patient's teeth.")


DIY Teeth Whitening Test #2: Oil Pulling

(Insert photo "Oil pulling" with caption: Oil pulling, or swishing coconut oil around in the mouth and between the teeth for 20 minutes has become a popular fad for cleansing and whitening teeth. Dr. Jaimee' Morgan put it to the test.)

Dr. Jaimeé Morgan:  Oil pulling, or swishing coconut oil around in your mouth for an extended amount of time, has been touted by some as a means to kill bacteria, remove plaque, freshen breath, and whiten teeth. First of all, it takes 20 minutes. How are people supposed to fit this into their busy schedules? It's easier to brush for three minutes, which would be more effective anyway. Also, if oil pulling is supposed to whiten the teeth and remove plaque, shouldn't it be effective in removing staining from activated charcoal experiment, as well as plaque and plaque indicator? We tested this hypothesis. After brushing with activated charcoal, applying plaque indicator, and then oil pulling, the staining, plaque, and charcoal residue were all still present at the gum line. A toothbrush and some good toothpaste, like Opalescence® Whitening Toothpaste, would have done a far better job. 

(Insert photo "After Oil Pulling 20 minutes" with caption: After swishing with coconut oil (also known as "oil pulling") for 20 minutes, no change in the amount charcoal residue or plaque indicator present was observed.)


DIY Teeth Whitening Test #3: Brushing With a Mix of Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

(Insert photo "Baking Soda and Lemon Juice" with caption: Dr. Morgan warns against brushing with baking soda and lemon juice, as it could scratch and damage the enamel if the pH balance isn't right.)

Dr. Jaimeé Morgan:  Baking soda is basic, and lemon juice is acidic, so they could cancel each other out if you use the proper ratio of baking soda to lemon juice. However, there is a danger that, if not mixed properly, the acid in the lemon juice or the abrasiveness of the baking soda could damage the enamel of the tooth. For patients who like the odor-canceling properties of baking soda, I would advise them to mix it with water and swish with it rather than brush with it. To demonstrate the danger of exposing teeth to lemon juice (let alone brushing with it!), here's a photo of one of my patients who likes to suck on lemons: 

(Insert photo "lemon sucker" with caption: One of Dr. Morgan's patients, who likes to suck on lemons, but has experienced significant enamel damage as a result.)

(Insert photo "Opalescence Toothpaste brushing," with caption: Instead of risking enamel damage, Dr. Morgan had her patient brush with Opalescence Whitening Toothpaste to remove the remaining charcoal and plaque indicator, with sparkling results!)

(Insert photo "Opalescence Whitening Toothpaste" with caption: Don't take the risk with these trends, use Opalescence Whitening Toothpaste instead.)

In the end, none of these popular at-home whitening trends held up under scrutiny, and, in fact, proved to be not only ineffective but unhealty and even dangerous. Dr. Morgan' recommends skipping these at-home teeth whitening fads and simply brushing consistently with Opalescence Whitening Toothpaste.

For more information on healthy tooth whitening, visit us at opalescence.com.