DIY remedies are everywhere. From YouTube and Pinterest, to blog posts and more, it’s easy to become a self-proclaimed DIYer who dreams of choosing homemade over store-bought every time. This can be a great way to save money and feed your creativity in many cases with things like one-of-a-kind furniture, personalized jewelry or even nourishing skincare concoctions. But what about when it comes to your teeth?
At-home teeth whitening and breath freshening hacks are becoming increasingly popular, but are they safe? The answer is usually “no,” with few exceptions. Read on to learn the verdict of some of the most well-known ones…
The Safety of Popular DIY Oral Remedies
- Oil Pulling: If you’ve never heard of oil pulling, you may be living under a rock. This trendy yet ancient Ayurvedic practice calls for users to swish oil around in their mouths to remove toxins and whiten teeth. If it sounds gross, that’s because it is. There’s also no scientific evidence proving it has purifying or whitening effects. It does however, have a laundry list of side effects including dry mouth, upset stomach, a hangover-like feeling, loss of taste, sudden flu-like symptoms and lipoid pneumonia (caused by contaminated oil entering lungs accidentally). Learn more about these and other unpleasant effects here.
- Baking Soda: Using baking soda as a replacement for toothpaste may sound like a good idea. After all, it does a great job scraping away stains from teeth, making them whiter initially. However, this abrasive scrubbing power is too intense for regular use on your pearly whites. It can wear away your enamel over time, exposing the yellow dentin underneath. Probably not the effect you were going for.
- Lemon Juice: Similarly, lemon juice is also recommended as a DIY tooth whitener. It may work in the beginning, but can cause serious damage if used over time. The acidity alters your mouth’s pH balance, weakening your enamel temporarily. When combined with baking soda—as called for by many DIYs—you’re asking for trouble!
- Tongue Scraping: This simple oral hygiene hack calls for using a special instrument to scrap the surface of your tongue, removing plaque and consequently freshening breath. And it does work! Go get yourself a tongue scraper, start in the back of your tongue and gently pull forward to scrap away built up plaque. Be sure to clean your scraper in between passes and rinse your mouth thoroughly when you’re done. Also be careful not to damage the tissue by pulling too hard—your tongue is more sensitive than you might think.
Play It Safe with Your Teeth
The moral of this story is: don’t take dental advice from a source you don’t completely trust. The at-home treatments may seem fun and tempting, especially since they are generally inexpensive. But you could end up with a mouth full of damaged teeth instead of the results you’re looking for. When in doubt, ask your dentist or hygienist for their opinion on the DIYs you’ve been eyeing.
For at-home dental care, it’s best to stick with tried and true scientific methods like brushing twice a day, flossing daily and visiting your dentist twice a year. Boring maybe, but you’ll save lots of time, money and damage by keeping up with the basics.
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