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7 Ways to Naturally Whiten Your Teeth

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By Becky Bell

In 2015, Americans alone spent more than $11 billion on teeth whitening, including more than $1.4 billion on at-home whitening products (1).

There are plenty of products to choose from when it comes to whitening your teeth.

If you want whiter teeth, but also want to avoid the chemicals, then this article lists many options that are both natural and safe.iStock

However, most whitening products use chemicals to bleach your teeth, which concerns many people.

If you want whiter teeth, but also want to avoid the chemicals, then this article lists many options that are both natural and safe.

What Causes Teeth to Look Yellow?

There are multiple factors that cause teeth to become dull and lose their bright, white sparkle.

Certain foods can stain your enamel, which is the outermost layer of your teeth. Additionally, plaque build-up on your teeth can cause them to look yellow.

This type of discoloration can usually be treated with regular cleaning and whitening remedies.

However, sometimes teeth look yellow because the hard enamel has eroded away, revealing the dentin underneath. Dentin is a naturally yellow, bony tissue that lies underneath the enamel.

Here are 7 simple ways you can naturally whiten your teeth.

1. Try Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is a traditional Indian folk remedy meant to improve oral hygiene and remove toxins from the body.

The practice involves swishing oil around in your mouth to remove bacteria, which can turn into plaque and cause your teeth to look yellow (2).

Traditionally, Indians used sunflower or sesame oil for oil pulling, but any oil will work.

Coconut oil is a popular choice because it has a pleasant taste and offers many additional health benefits.

Coconut oil is also high in lauric acid, which is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria (3, 4, 5, 6).

A few studies have shown that daily oil pulling effectively reduces bacteria in the mouth, along with plaque and gingivitis (3, 7, 8).

Streptococcus mutans is one of the primary types of bacteria in the mouth that cause plaque and gingivitis. One study found that daily swishing with sesame oil significantly reduced streptococcus mutans in saliva in as little as one week (8).

Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies to prove that oil pulling whitens your teeth. However, it's a safe practice and definitely worth a try. Many people claim their teeth are whiter and brighter after regular oil pulling.

To oil pull, put 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and push and pull the oil through your teeth. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you may need to wait a few seconds for it to melt. Continue the oil pulling for a full 15–20 minutes.

Be sure to spit the coconut oil into a toilet or trash can, as it could return to solid form once in your drain pipes and cause a clog.

Unlike many other tooth whitening methods, coconut oil pulling does not expose your teeth to acid or other ingredients that erode the enamel. This means it is safe to do daily.

Bottom Line: Coconut oil pulling involves swishing oil in your mouth for 15–20 minutes to remove bacteria. Practicing this daily can reduce plaque and may brighten your teeth.

2. Brush With Baking Soda

Baking soda has natural whitening properties, which is why it's a popular ingredient in commercial toothpaste.

It's a mild abrasive that can help scrub away surface stains on teeth.

Additionally, baking soda creates an alkaline environment in your mouth, which prevents bacteria from growing (9).

This is not a remedy that will whiten your teeth overnight, but you should notice a difference in the appearance of your teeth over time.

Science has not yet proven that brushing with plain baking soda will whiten your teeth, but several studies show that toothpaste with baking soda has a significant whitening effect.

One study found that toothpastes containing baking soda were significantly more effective at removing yellow stains from teeth than standard toothpastes without baking soda. The higher the concentration of baking soda, the greater the effect (10).

Furthermore, a review of five studies found that toothpastes containing baking soda removed plaque from teeth more effectively than non-baking soda toothpastes (11).

To use this remedy, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 2 teaspoons of water and brush your teeth with the paste. You can do this a few times per week.

Bottom Line: Brushing with a paste made with baking soda and water can reduce bacteria in your mouth and buff away surface stains.

3. Use Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent that also kills bacteria in your mouth (12).

In fact, people have been using hydrogen peroxide for years to disinfect wounds because of its ability to kill bacteria.

Many commercial whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide, although at a much higher concentration than you will use.

Unfortunately, there aren't any studies to show the effects of rinsing or brushing with hydrogen peroxide alone, but several studies have analyzed commercial toothpastes containing peroxide.

One study found that a toothpaste containing baking soda and 1 percent hydrogen peroxide led to significantly whiter teeth (13).

Another study found that brushing with a commercial toothpaste containing baking soda and peroxide twice per day led to 62 percent whiter teeth in six weeks (14).

However, there are some questions regarding the safety of hydrogen peroxide.

While heavily diluted concentrations appear safe, strong concentrations or overuse can cause gum irritation and tooth sensitivity. There's also concern that high doses may cause cancer, but this has not been proven (15, 16, 17, 18, 19).

One way to use hydrogen peroxide is as a mouthwash before you brush your teeth. Make sure you are using a 1.5 percent or 3 percent solution to avoid side effects.

The most common concentration of hydrogen peroxide at the drugstore is a 3 percent solution. You can easily dilute this concentration to 1.5 percent by mixing equal parts peroxide and water.

Another way to use hydrogen peroxide is by mixing it with baking soda to make a toothpaste. Combine 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and gently brush your teeth with the mixture.

Limit the use of this homemade paste to a few times per week, as overuse can erode your tooth enamel.

Bottom Line: Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent and can kill bacteria in your mouth. You can use it as a mouthwash or mix it with baking soda to form a whitening toothpaste.

4. Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as a disinfectant and natural cleaning product.

Acetic acid, which is the main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar, effectively kills bacteria. The antibacterial property of vinegar is what makes it useful for cleaning your mouth and whitening your teeth (20, 21, 22, 23).

One study performed on cow teeth found that apple cider vinegar does have a bleaching effect on teeth. However, they also found that vinegar may soften the teeth (24).

The acetic acid in vinegar has the potential to erode the enamel on your teeth. For this reason, you should not use apple cider vinegar every day. You should also limit the amount of time that apple cider vinegar is in contact with your teeth (25).

To use it as a mouthwash, dilute it with water and swish it around in your mouth for several minutes. Make sure to rinse your mouth with plain water afterwards.

Bottom Line: Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties that may help whiten your teeth. However, overuse of vinegar can also erode the enamel on your teeth, so limit its use to a few times per week.

5. Use Fruits and Vegetables

A diet high in fruits and vegetables may be good for both your body and your teeth.

While they're no substitute for brushing your teeth, crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables can help rub plaque away as you chew.

In particular, strawberries and pineapple are two fruits that have been claimed to help whiten your teeth.

Strawberries

Whitening your teeth with a strawberry and baking soda mixture is a natural remedy that has been made popular by celebrities.

Proponents of this method claim that the malic acid found in strawberries will remove discoloration on your teeth, while the baking soda will buff away stains.

However, this remedy has not been completely backed up by science.

While strawberries may help exfoliate your teeth and make them appear whiter, they are unlikely to penetrate the stains on your teeth.

A recent study found that a strawberry and baking soda mixture produced very little color change in teeth, compared to commercial whitening products (26).

If you decide to give this method a try, limit its use to a few times per week.

Despite studies showing that a strawberry and baking soda paste had a minimal effect on tooth enamel, excessive use could cause damage (27, 28).

To use this remedy, smash up a fresh strawberry, combine it with baking soda and brush the mixture on your teeth.

Pineapple

Some claim that pineapple can whiten teeth.

A study found that a toothpaste containing bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, was significantly more effective at removing tooth stains than a standard toothpaste (29).

However, there is no evidence that eating pineapples produces the same effect.

Bottom Line: Certain fruits may have properties that help whiten teeth. Regularly consume raw fruits and vegetables to help rub off plaque and keep your teeth looking bright.

6. Prevent Tooth Stains Before They Happen

Your teeth naturally yellow as you age, but there are some things you can do to prevent stains on your teeth.

Limit Staining Foods and Beverages

Coffee, red wine, soda and dark berries are infamous for staining teeth.

That doesn't mean you have to completely avoid them, but you should limit the amount of time these substances are in contact with your teeth.

If possible, drink beverages known to stain teeth out of a straw to prevent direct contact with your teeth.

Moreover, brush your teeth soon after consuming one of these foods or beverages to limit their effects on the color of your teeth.

Additionally, avoid smoking and chewing tobacco, both of which can cause tooth discoloration.

Limit Sugar in Your Diet

If you want whiter teeth, cut back on your sugar intake.

A diet high in sugar supports the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria, the primary type of bacteria that causes plaque and gingivitis (30, 31).

When you do consume a sugary food, brush your teeth soon after you eat.

Get Plenty of Calcium in Your Diet

Some tooth discoloration is caused by enamel eroding away and exposing the dentin underneath, which is yellow in color. Therefore, anything you do to strengthen the enamel of your teeth will help keep your teeth pearly white.

Calcium-rich foods, such as milk, cheese and broccoli, may help protect your teeth from enamel erosion (32).

Bottom Line: A healthy diet with enough calcium can help prevent your teeth from becoming yellow. Brushing your teeth soon after you eat can also help prevent stains.

7. Don't Underestimate the Value of Brushing and Flossing

While some tooth discoloration comes naturally with age, a large portion is a result of plaque build-up.

Regular brushing and flossing can help your teeth stay white by reducing bacteria in your mouth and preventing plaque build-up.

Toothpaste gently rubs out stains on your teeth and flossing removes bacteria that lead to plaque.

Regular dental cleanings can also help your teeth stay clean and white.

Bottom Line: Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular cleanings at the dentist's office, prevent the build-up of yellowing plaque on your teeth.

Other Methods That Are Not Proven

There are a few other natural teeth whitening methods, but there is no scientific evidence to prove that they are effective or safe.

Here are some of the unproven methods:

  • Activated charcoal: Brushing with powdered charcoal supposedly pulls toxins from the mouth and removes stains from teeth.
  • Kaolin clay: Proponents of this method claim that brushing with clay helps remove stains from teeth.
  • Fruit peels: Rubbing orange, lemon or banana peels on your teeth is claimed to make them whiter.

Advocates of these methods claim they make teeth significantly whiter, but no studies have evaluated their effectiveness. This also means that they have not been tested for side effects when used on teeth.

Bottom Line: Activated charcoal, kaolin clay and fruit peels may help whiten your teeth, but no studies have evaluated the safety or effectiveness of these methods.

Take Home Message

There are several natural methods to help whiten your teeth. Most of these remedies work by gently removing surface stains on your teeth.

However, most dentists offer whitening treatments that are much stronger than these natural remedies. They involve bleaching the teeth, which may be more effective for severe tooth discoloration.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:

Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

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An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

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Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

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Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."

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