4 Natural Teeth Whitening Options That Work

4 Natural Teeth Whitening Remedies that work- charcoal-coconut oil-toothpate-turmeric

Teeth whitening is a multi-billion dollar industry, but unfortunately many teeth whitening treatments contain harsh chemicals that can leave teeth feeling sensitive for a long time. I had sensitive teeth for years after my high school attempts at teeth whitening (at home and at the dentist office).

Once I became pregnant with first child, I was careful to avoid all chemicals, including those normally used to whiten teeth. I wanted to find natural ways to whiten my teeth that not only worked well, but were also safe. Since chemicals can easily absorb through the sensitive skin in the mouth, I wanted to only use options that were safe enough to eat.

Of course, none of these things are a replacement for normal dental care and I asked my dentist before using these (you should too!). I’ve found that these methods work great along side my normal brushing and flossing routine.

1. Charcoal

how to whiten teeth naturally with charcoalMy first and favorite teeth whitening remedy is also the most controversial: Activated Charcoal.

This was recommended to me by a holistic dentist years ago and though I was skeptical at first, I gave it a try and have been impressed with the results over time.

Yes, it looks terrifying while you are doing it and you will absolutely think for a minute that you were duped by a blogger into permanently staining your teeth. Then, you’ll rinse your mouth and brush as usual and notice that your teeth are not only white again, but possibly whiter.

This works because activated charcoal is a highly absorbent porous substance that binds to things like tannins that stain teeth and leave them yellow or brown. It might also have other benefits for the mouth as well:

Further research I’ve done on this showed that activated charcoal can actually be helpful in changing the pH and health of the mouth, and as such is effective in avoiding cavities and killing the bad bacteria present in tooth decay and gingivitis. For this reason, I now suggest and use it as part of my remineralizing protocol for teeth, along with my remineralizing toothpaste.

When I first wrote about this in 2012, it was controversial and I actually got hate mail (really) for trying to convince people to do something that was obviously going to stain their teeth. These days, I see pictures of it floating around Pinterest, so it seems to have gained a little acceptance.

Some important things I’ve discovered over the years:

  • Keep a microfiber cloth on hand to make cleanup easy as it can make a mess on counters and sinks (though it will come out of them as well)
  • I simply dip my toothbrush into some powdered charcoal that I keep in a small jar on my counter and brush as normal. Another way that will produce results more quickly is to mix a teaspoon of charcoal powder into some water and swish with it for a few minutes. Then, spit the water and leave the remaining charcoal in the mouth for a few minutes so that it has time to bind to stains.
  • It is super important to use activated charcoal from a food/medical grade source. This is not the same as charcoal from your BBQ grill…do not use that.
  • I did this every day for a week when I started and now maintain by using it once a week or so.
  • I felt comfortable brushing with charcoal during pregnancy since oral health is even more important then, and it is spit out and not consumed. I checked with my midwife first (and you should too if pregnant).

Full tutorial and video are here.

2. Oil Pulling

Coconut Oil Pulling - How to use coconut oil to improve oral healthAnother oddly controversial teeth whitener: oil pulling.

The basic concept here is swishing oil (like sesame or coconut) in the mouth for 20 minutes to help remove plaque and bacteria from the mouth. Coconut oil has been proven effective against the streptococcus mutans bacteria that contributes to cavities and gum disease.

Since beginning oil pulling on a regular basis, I’ve noticed that my teeth are smooth and shiny and the dental assistants have commented that I had very little plaque at recent cleanings.

What to do: Swish with a small amount of coconut oil for 20 minutes a day, preferably first thing in the morning before eating. I make single use size coconut oil pulling chews to make this even easier and do this while showering.

Here is the oil pulling tutorial and this post specifically addresses using coconut oil.

3. Whitening Toothpaste

Homemade Whitening Toothpast RecipeLast year, I combined a few of my favorite teeth whitening ingredients to make a homemade whitening toothpaste. It only contains:

This combines natural calcium (a mineral that teeth need) with Xylitol, which is helpful for oral health, and MCT or coconut oil for a remineralizing, bacteria fighting whitening toothpaste.

Here’s the recipe.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric-Antioxidant and Immune Boosting SpiceAnother counter-intuitive remedy that actually works. Turmeric is known for staining things yellow (including cloth, skin and other surfaces) and it has even been used as a dye for cloth in the past. It isn’t the first thing you’d think of for whitening teeth, but it works surprisingly well.

Mommypotamus explains why and provides a tutorial here.

Ever whitened your teeth? Naturally or not so much? Did it work?

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Reader Comments

  1. I started using turmeric this year and I think it works reasonably well, but after the first use I designated that toothbrush to be the turmeric brush ever after! The brush was definitely stained and next few times I tried to use it for normal brushing, it still had the tell tell signs of turmeric in it.

  2. I find that I need to do a very thorough flossing or waterpik-ing after using charcoal to brush, but the whitening and cleaning power of the charcoal is undeniable.

    • Immediately after spitting out the charcoal (no need to rinse), try swishing with coconut oil for a few minutes. The oil makes clean up much easier. After “post-charcoal oil pulling” I just need a quick rinse and brush to remove all the black.

  3. Hi, I have some porcelain teeth in my mouth due to a hereditary teeth patterning problem. Am I safe to use tumeric or charcoal or will it stain the porcelains?
    Thank you for your help and for all your posts – life changing stuff 🙂

      • I have the same question. I have veneers. I currently make my own coconut oil toothpaste. I use to have bleeding and tender gums but after switching to homemade coconut oil toothpaste, I no longer have those problems. However, I would be quite reluctant to use charcoal or turmeric for fear of staining my veneers.

        • I don’t have any firsthand experience with this, but neither one is supposed to stain. I’d check with a dentist though to be sure.

          • Vicky / Lisa. I am coming in a little late here but you should not experience any staining on veneers assuming they are porcelain. This is a glass like material and does not have the porous finish of tooth enamel (which also does not stain). I totally understand your reluctance though. Charcoal (activated only) can still absorb any form of discolouration and other bio-film from veneers.

            A suggestion.. mix a small amount of activated charcoal or turmeric if you are more daring into your home made toothpaste and build up the ratio as you see that the charcoal or turmeric is cleaning not staining.

            I personally have issue with any abrasive materials such as baking soda on teeth and certainly would not want to mix any abrasive materials with ingredients like charcoal and turmeric. This is a personal thing.

  4. Thanks to Wellness Mama I’ve added both charcoal and oil pulling to my routine. Both do a great job of cleaning and whitening my teeth. After soaking my teeth in charcoal for 5 minutes, I spit but do not rinse. Then I pop coconut oil in my mouth and swish for 20 minutes. This way I’m oil pulling with an oil/charcoal mix which has extra cleaning and whitening power. As a bonus the oil does a fantastic job of cleaning the black off my teeth.

  5. Katie, first I have to thank you for imparting your wisdom and knowledge which is turning me more and more towards healthier living for myself and my pups. (bone broth, coconut oil for everything!, lip balm, deodorant, moisture bar, toilet fizzies; I know there’s more.)
    This is the first I’ve heard of tumeric whitening teeth, but am not surprised. I recently got some organic rhizomes and am trying to grow, as well as drying to powder. Now I have another use. This is going to sound totally gross, but I am chewing a small piece for a couple of minutes before using your remineralizing tooth paste, (which is fantastic for whitening!) My toothbrush does not keep the yellow stain after using.
    So, along with occasional oil pulling, and activated charcoal, I now have another weapon in my teeth whitening arsonal.
    Thank you!

  6. I do turmeric and oil pulling for a little more than a week now and haven’t noticed any change. But I keep going, maybe I try charcoal too.
    I love your posts and enjoy reading them every time. I have learned a lot since I’ve discovered your blog and learned a lot. Just wanted to say thank you!
    And I have a wish. Maybe it is possible, that you write about energy?How to get more, what you can do to keep it high. Although I eat clean and healthy my energy is very low and nothing really seems to help. I try to get out every day, but can’t make ist . I have ‘only’ one child and it is hard for me to get through the days and wonder how you manage everything so well. Maybe you have some ideas. Would be very much appreciated. Thx.

    • I have a few friends that have these symptoms. They have a thyroid deficiency, you should get yours checked out.

    • Something that I’ve been using that really helps give me that alert, natural energy is maca powder. It’s a root powder that has been used forever. You can buy just the powder (it sort of tastes like butterscotch, but it’s not sweet) or buy it in capsules. The capsules are easier, but if you can regularly drink the powder, it seems a bit more effective.
      My favorite drink is hot milk, a tablespoon or so of maca powder, and pure maple syrup to sweeten to taste. I’ve also made hot chocolate with it using coco powder and honey. It is not very easy to mix, so I keep mixing as I drink, but I think it tastes pretty good.
      Good luck!

  7. I have deep sockets and my dentist told me every 3 months I need to rinse with peroxide to get food out so my gums wouldn’t hurt. I started doing this and at my next visit my dentist asked me what I was using to whiten my teeth and I told her nothing because I didn’t think I was. After my next 6 month visit I told her what I was doing as far as using the peroxide as she told me to and she said thats why your teeth are so white. So Proxide whiten your teeth.

  8. Stay away or limit orange foods like ravioli, and include raw onion in your diet, raw onion bleaches teeth Also, here is a RECIPE: 1/4 cup salt, 3/4 cup baking soda (and onion juice to make into a paste for bleaching) tooth powder or bleaching tooth paste. (I use just the tooth power no onion juice)

  9. Hi Katie,
    Charcoal sure does work wonders.. I scoop a little amount with my finger and use it to scrub(lol) my teeth and its done wonders..
    Also I would like to say that I’ve been on a diet and exercise with my sister for about two months now and while she’s gone from a size 18 to 16,I’ve been stuck on same size.. What am I doing wrong? I do have a hormonal imbalance issue while she doesn’t.. Is there anything I can do to correct it with regards to Weightloss.
    Thanks and God bless

  10. I have a major problem with Xylitol, it’s toxic to animals. I heard it is to humans as well, due to how it’s processed? Not sure about humans, but for sure it is to animals. I don’t allow it in my house. I don’t buy anything with it in it.

    There is a teeth cleaner for animals on the market by Virbac. I kept asking my one vets office how come they had this product with xylitol on the shelf. They said a little would be fine. WRONG! After my second visit and seeing it still there, I mentioned it again. They said they would look into it. MY third visit it was gone. This vet office has many new student vets under the main vet and they should KNOW BETTER. Please look further into this for humans, and do put warnings about it harming animals in your blogs, if you haven’t already. Thanks.

    • Yes, xylitol is toxic to animals but not humans. In fact it is know to reverse cavities in humans.

      • I did some research into Xylitol and it can be made from many different ingredients. I don’t believe it can help fight cavities, specially if it’s made from corn. I think in time the truth will come out.

        • Xylitol from birch is the best. Shelly, the role of xylitol in reversing tooth decay is that it helps correct the ph in your mouth. This is most important for anyone who has any metal fillings, retainers or other dental work. I’ve healed a cavity naturally by using xylitol as a part of my oral health routine. It is not a cure all, and xylitol from corn is not the same as xylitol from birch bark. With any metal work in your mouth, you are almost ensuring you will need more dental work, unless you work very hard to keep the ph of your mouth correct.

  11. Has anyone tried using bone meal powder in homemade toothpaste/powder?

  12. I tried oil pulling for a bit but was worried about doing it with all my dental work. Do you know if it’s OK to do these (and the natural toothpaste) with crowns, bridges and fillings? Will the charcoal remove the cement? I’m also wondering if there’s a way to make the natural toothpaste kidfriendly. My daughter is used to Tom’s strawberry toothpaste so I’d like to make the natural paste a similar flavor (and use without xylitol). Thank you for your help, I’m SO glad I came across your website!

  13. Well, sorry to be the naysayer, but most of these things have not worked for me. The have made my staining worse. My teeth and lips are SUPER prone to picking up stain. I have to go in between cleanings just to get some scrubbed off. My ND thinks it may be related to pH of oral cavity and we are trying some treatments to work on this.

    • Look into Colloidal Silver.

      • I LOVE Colloidal Silver. There are so many uses for it. I keep it in my house in both liquid and gel form. I have a list of testimonials of how well this works so I share with everyone I meet. I want everyone to he happy and healthy.

  14. I tried the charcoal method this morning and I think my teeth look whiter but will keep at it to give it a fair test. But NOTE: I used my neti pot afterward and lots of black stuff came out of my nose! Kinda’ creepy.

    • It is most likely that you breathed some of the charcoal in, hence it coming out after using your Neti pot. x

  15. Has anyone tried or thought of using a very small amount of activated charcoal combined with oil pulling? Seems to me it would aid in oral health as it is one of it’s uses. Plus it may help whiten your teeth in a less abrasive way than brushing but not totally eliminate the recommended brushing routine. I wouldn’t use charcoal every day. Some professional help or experimentation would be needed or words from the wise that may have already tried this. What does anyone think?

  16. These are interesting methods, thanks for sharing

  17. Thanks for all the great info 🙂
    Does anyone know if activated charcoal and the remineralizing toothpaste can be used with braces?
    Thanks, Marina

  18. Brushing with charcoal

    OMG!!! I am so amazed to see this article about brushing with charcoal. I was born in Guyana and raised there. Going back to almost thirty years ago, I remember charcoal is something we all used to use for whitening our teeth

  19. Hi! so i try the tumeric, i have natural white teeth but hey! never is to white! and that was a total mistake, the tumeric leave my teeth yellow and i try to clean the stain with natural toothpaste, tooth powder, baking soda and comercial toothpaste and the stain is still there, my gums bleed for my trying to clean the stain, so sucks! don’t try the tumeric! the toothbrush will be yellow forever and so will your theet. I’ll have to make an appointment with the dentist to see what can i do.
    Don’t make the same mistake! the tumeric doesn’t work at all!

    • Turmeric does not stain teeth, first and foremost! Clothing, countertops, and toothbrushes is a different story most definitely. This being said, a toothbrush costs between 4 and 8 quarters and is a small sacrifice in the name of oral health.

      I own several natural health superfood companies and successfully use turmeric in a wide range of products. A personal consequence that I’ve paid on the road to building a successful business and bootstrapping it completely with my own funds is that my dental health has been neglected over the last few years. Not the smartest thing I know but as the saying goes, “it costs money to make money”!

      A few months ago while vending at my local farmer’s market a random client mentioned to me how they chewed turmeric root whenever they had a flare-up in their mouth. Coincidentally I had been really struggling with two problematic teeth during this same time, one on each side. I was experiencing regular pain as it was quite clear the teeth had decayed. I was literally a few days away from having to shell out a few hundred dollars at the dentist to give me some relief from the excruciating pain I was encountering.

      That night I started brushing my teeth with turmeric powder, doing this after brushing with my normal toothpaste. I continued this routine over the next couple days. All I can say is that within this time the tooth pain completely went away. Not gradually but all at once! Since then I brush with turmeric daily and although I still have a couple teeth that are in not so good shape, I have not had one toothache. Mind you I would get tooth flare-ups every few weeks prior to this.

      I cannot say enough about turmeric for oral health and overall health. The healthy benefits are numerous, too long to list in fact. I implore all uninformed readers to search on the benefits of turmeric and you will be stunned. We are in the process of launching our new line of superfood toothpaste which will feature turmeric as a main ingredient.

      When assessing the superfood turmeric don’t give credence to negative comments, but rather rely upon the dearth of information and positive stories that exist. Turmeric has been used for thousands of years by Asians as a spice for food as well as a medicine for health; both internally and externally. Cheers!

  20. I’m gonna try the activated charcoal. But I am weary since, as a nurse, we use it at the hospital for poison ingestion and overdose. Never even heard of using it for anything other than that!
    This will be interesting!

    • That is because it detoxes 🙂 My doctor just put me on it for detoxing. I used it for my teeth and it works great.

  21. Hey, Katie. These look like promising teeth whitening methods. I haven’t tried activated charcoal, but I’ve heard that, for some, it has been effective. I have some turmeric in my spice cabinet, so I’ll likely try that first. Thanks for writing this article; hopefully I’ll get my smile back!

    Lily de Grey

  22. How do you keep the coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes?! haha I find that when I am swishing it around my saliva starts building up to and I have to spit or I start accidentally swallowing some.

    • I find I have to spit a little (outdoors or in the trash, I don’t want my pipes to clog) at about 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter, the saliva and coconut oil are still doing their job.

    • tilt your head forward when you first start to oil pull, simultaneously do some other morning activities to keep you distracted, like putting away clean dishes, etc, soon 20 min will pass by before you realize it, you will get used to it and it will be super easy

  23. Thanks for the teeth whitening tips. You are right, that charcoal whitening picture looks terrifying! It’s strange that something as messy as charcoal can actually be used to brighten your smile. I’ll try out your methods as soon as I can and see which ones works best for me.

  24. To add to this, I also gargle with “On Guard” (Doterra) essential oil mixed with water as a mouth wash. On guard is a natural cleaner that you can even use for natural homemade cleaner. I also add peppermint as well to freshen and help wake me up.

    I do coconut oil pulling daily as well.

  25. Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I have been brushing with turmeric for a week now and every day my teeth become whiter. I am definitely going to try the activated charcoal as well. Thank you, thank you!!!!!

  26. Another Process to whiten your teeth is to make paste with baking soda and lemon juice,and then apply the paste in your tooth,

  27. In my grandmother’s times,they used charcoal and it was the only toothpaste available in her home.It was made by burning chaff(not sure this is the word,the outer layer) of rice,after the rice separated.(we are from South India)
    I am sorry you got hate mail for introducing a very natural thousand year old method and thanks for reminding me of a childhood routine that was so natural and forgotten.

  28. This *may* have been commented already… BUT Do NOT use turmeric if you have invisilign… stains the “buttons” that hold your trays in yellow. unpleasant 🙁

  29. I had never heard of using charcoal to clean teeth before reading your article. You would think it would stain your teeth! Where could I look to find activated charcoal to use for this though? I appreciate your help and your response in advance!

    • I bought mine in bulk from Amazon, but you can also buy activated charcoal capsules and tablets in health food/ supplement shops (in the UK we have Holland and Barrett’s) and some chemists.

      If you buy capsules, simply carefully remove the covering and use the powder within, if you buy tablets you can crush it (or chew it if you’d prefer). If you are buying from Amazon etc be sure to buy a find powder since it saves you work.

  30. Thanks for some ideas. But, charcoal, really? I have definitely never heard of that as a valid teeth whitening method. I’m curious and want to try it now. I have been trying a few other ideas, but with slow results. It definitely sounds like a good idea to be prepared, cloth in hand, for the clean up. Thanks again for the idea.

    • I was amazed at the results after using it just once! Though to be fair I smoke and whilst my teeth don’t look like smokers teeth (probably because I am still young) I had noticed one of them starting to look a tad yellow. Using this method once was enough to get all my teeth looking pearly white again, including the one that had started to yellow! I couldn’t believe it since I, too, was sceptical. It is now part of my routine.

      I simply mixed some activated charcoal (which I already had in stock since I use it for eye-liner and eye shadow), mixed it with some distilled water (though I imagine even tap water is fine) in a pot, ran the closed pot under the hot tap for a minute since I have sensitive teeth then used just like mouthwash. Except you hold it in your mouth for a good few minutes. I find that the perfect amount of time to mix up a face mask and apply it, then get some oats in my old stockings to put in the bath.

  31. Is brushing with activated charcoal safe during pregnancy?

    • Nadine,

      Whilst you should always check with your midwife activated charcoal should be fine during pregnancy. I was given it in A&E when I was pregnant and that was to actually drink. When using it for your teeth you don’t actually swallow making it even safer.

      If you are concerned, please check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist but I can’t see any problem with using it during pregnancy. So long as it is activated charcoal and not ‘normal’ charcoal.

      Hope this helps!

  32. Frankincense! Amazing for whitening teeth!

  33. I have never heard of some of these item you mention ….. Lot less to even begin to go and find/buy them.

    … Pure Calcium Carbonate Powder
    Non-GMO Xylitol Powder
    MCT oil (I’ve also used this less expensive one with good results)

    what the hell is this stuff?

    • All of the items are linked to in the article…

  34. will the turmeric stain white fillings?

    • No, it doesn’t ;). It didn’t stain mine. 🙂

  35. I mixed up some turmeric with organic coconut oil and brush my teeth with it every couple of days. I noticed right away a difference. I don’t add anything else to it as I don’t want to use too many abrasives on my teeth. It is very messy. I have to stand over the sink with some toilet tissue folded up under my bottom lip so I don’t drip and stain my clothes or anything else. I’ve had it on my face before and ended up using makeup to cover it up! Next time I was more careful!

  36. I tried coconut oil but didn’t help very much then I went to try tumeric today and it worked, just add a teaspoon of it in a little bowl or plate and also add one teaspoon of water with the tumeric, dip your toothpaste in it and brush for about two minutes then spit out and rinse with warm water.

  37. I have really bad yellow brownish discoloration on front two teeth… Caused by something my mom took during her pregnancy. Will the charcoal remove the stains.

    • Sade

      Not being able to see your teeth, I am making a guess that the discolouration is not the enamel but the dentin underneath.

      Oil pulling, charcoal or turmeric will clean the enamel which would normally give the impression of whiter. But the issue is below the surface. This is not to say you should not try them. They are all safe practices and cheap.

      I would talk to your dentist about this.

      Kind regards

      Christian

  38. Thanks for this article. Scrubbing with orange peel on teeth is also good for teeth whitening.

  39. I do use charcoal when I was younger. It works. I still use it once in awhile when I notice any stain on my teeth.

  40. I like your DIY toothpaste! Hope I can made the same

  41. I take a tablespoon of coconut oil and open one capsule of charcoal in my mouth. Then I do a 20 minute oil pulling session. I spit it out in some paper towel and brush my teeth afterwards. Great stuff!

  42. I have put one drop of wintergreen or spearmint essential oil on tooth paste. Teeth are shiny and it takes away stains. The essential oil’s are doterra.

  43. Regarding dipping toothbrushes in activated charcoal – Do you worry that will allow bacteria to build up in the container of charcoal? You’re dipping the toothbrush, which has your saliva in it… I have no knowledge to base this on, which is why I’m asking. I have been attempting to put it on my toothbrush without dipping, but it’s such a mess. If I can confirm it wouldn’t cause bacteria to grow, I would definitely prefer dipping. Any insight/sources you can provide would be great! Thank you!!

  44. I daily brush my teeth two times a day but stain remains in my teeth what do i do for it.

  45. Hi thank you for all the tips – can you please confirm if I can mix a pinch of turmeric powder to bentonite clay and activated charcoal toothpaste that I will be making?

    • Annie

      Yes, you can add turmeric powder to your clay and charcoal. Your toothbrush will no longer be stained black but a dark green (depending on how much turmeric you put in).

      I would start low – Turmeric has a distinctive – non minty – taste and too much can make your tooth powder taste a little odd first thing in the morning .. and keep away for your clean white shirt.

      Good luck

      Christian

  46. Very helpful article! I have very sensitive enamel, so whitening is mostly harmful…But I did try charcoal and the effect was really good) But this one is a bit messy though…))
    And mixing process is quite time taking)
    Also can recommend you whitening paste called Brush Me! (brushmepaste.com) This one is also good for sensitive teeth)
    But all this whitening methods are very individual) so it’s better to be careful with home whitening)

  47. I had no idea that you can use activated charcoal to whiten your teeth. My wedding is coming up in a few months and I am a little worried that my teeth will not be whitened enough. I would hate if my smile looked yellow compared to my dress. So, it might be best for me to look into this method.