Rubbing the underside of a banana peel on your teeth can brighten your smile, according to some social media influencers and online bloggers. Unfortunately, not according to science.
There are ways to safely whiten your teeth. But banana peels have no teeth whitening properties besides that of a napkin — you can wipe a little dental plaque off your teeth with almost anything acting as a gentle exfoliator.
Let’s talk about the pseudoscience behind banana peels and the real science behind quality teeth whitening treatments.
Why People Think Banana Peels Whiten Teeth
The misguided influencers and misleading articles that tout a ripe banana peel rub claim that minerals inside of the peel (such as potassium, manganese, and magnesium) absorb into the tooth structure, resulting in whiter teeth.
That’s just not how minerals work. These minerals do help strengthen tooth structure in a very small way, but there is no scientific evidence behind banana peels whitening teeth.
One of the only research papers studying banana peel’s effect on teeth whitening found that banana peel led to no whitening. In fact, the banana peel led to yellower teeth. It also led to less shiny teeth, but so did the whitening toothpaste which increased whiteness but decreased gloss.
It’s true that rubbing a banana peel against your teeth may remove some plaque and surface stains, but a toothbrush does a much better job — especially when coupled with a quality toothpaste. There’s nothing in a banana peel that is intrinsically teeth-whitening.
Most people don’t realize that a lot of objects can basically do what a toothbrush does. If you rub banana peel on your teeth in the morning before you brush your teeth, it’s easy to be fooled that the peel has some special teeth-cleaning properties. However, banana peels have no unique properties that are particularly good for teeth whitening.
Whitening Treatments That Work
There are a few at-home teeth whitening methods to try instead of banana peels:
- Baking soda is a mild abrasive present in a lot of toothpastes. It is a common at-home teeth whitener. Although baking soda can remove some stains from teeth, prolonged use could lead to damaged enamel because of its abrasive nature.
- Hydrogen peroxide — This household chemical is the most common bleaching ingredient in whitening products. However, swishing hydrogen peroxide around your mouth will not garner the same effect since it’s not really lingering on your tooth surface. Also, swishing hydrogen peroxide increases your risk of swallowing it, which you should avoid.
- Blue covarine toothpaste may work better than hydrogen peroxide and charcoal as a whitening agent in toothpaste.
- Whitening toothpastes that are approved by the ADA (American Dental Association) typically contain bleaching ingredients (carbamide peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, etc.) as well as abrasives, all of which work to effectively whiten your teeth. These abrasive ingredients can harm your dental enamel and lead to tooth sensitivity with long-term use.
- Whitening strips are not as effective as a professional whitening, but whitening strips are cheaper and commonly available at supermarkets. The usual whitening ingredients in these strips are carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. This 2020 scientific review finds that whitening strips can be more effective than whitening toothpaste.
Some natural options to consider with caution include:
- Strawberries contain malic acid, which may actually remove stains from your teeth. However, the citric acid in strawberries weakens dental enamel, so the minor whitening effect is probably canceled out by the damage to your tooth surface.
- Apple cider vinegar — This acidic substance has a slight bleaching effect on your teeth but also weakens tooth enamel because of its acid content.
- Oil pulling with coconut oil naturally removes harmful bacteria that can contribute to discoloration, but coconut oil possesses no bleaching properties. Although ancient Ayurvedic medicine claims oil pulling can whiten teeth, oil pulling is more a preventative than a treatment.
The best way to whiten your smile is to have a dental professional clean and whiten your teeth.
Dentists often use higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide than is found in over-the-counter products. Significant whitening can occur after only one visit. For some, it takes 2-3 visits to achieve the desired result, and once-a-year upkeep is common thereafter.
Unlike at-home remedies, dentists have full control over every chemical used in your mouth during professional teeth whitening in-office. This control allows for individualized dental care, instead of the one-size-fits-all approach of over-the-counter whitening treatments.
Other Dental Remedy Myths
- Charcoal — Activated charcoal is a popular dental health product additive, but its benefits are often exaggerated. Similar to baking soda, charcoal is abrasive and may remove surface stains from teeth, but it is highly abrasive and is often harmful to your teeth.
- Lemon peel rub — Although a banana peel shouldn’t harm your teeth, more acidic fruit peels can easily harm your tooth surface. Rubbing lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange peels against your teeth will almost certainly damage your enamel.
- Turmeric — Though turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial to your oral and whole-body health, turmeric unequivocally stains your teeth and leaves a yellow color on your teeth and gums.
- Brushing harder cleans better — Brushing your teeth as hard as you can might feel intuitive, but it’s counterproductive. Gentle circles angled towards your gum line is the best way to brush. The harder you brush, the more damage you can cause to your dental enamel. Brushing harder will not whiten your teeth.
- Chewing gum works like brushing — No, it doesn’t. Chewing sugar-free gum (preferably xylitol gum) can promote saliva production, remove food particles from between your teeth, and prevent dry mouth. However, it won’t remove plaque from the surface of your teeth like brushing or remove debris as well as flossing.
- White teeth are healthy teeth — It’s normal to want a shiny white smile. But just because your teeth are glistening white doesn’t mean you have healthy teeth. Teeth naturally become less white over time; different people have naturally different tooth color. Whitening your teeth can gloss over the root causes of discoloration, such as poor oral hygiene or tooth infection. Talk to your dentist about why your teeth are not white.
- Oral health only applies to your mouth — Your oral health affects your whole-body health, and your whole-body health affects your oral health. Gum disease is a major risk factor for heart disease. GERD is a major risk factor for dry mouth and tooth decay. An untreated cavity may lead to a brain infection. Hormone changes during pregnancy can alter the balance of your oral microbiome. Diabetes, autoimmune disease, and cancer can all cause halitosis. Do not overlook the all-important Mouth-Body Connection.
Looking For a Dentist in NYC?
You don’t have to be embarrassed of your smile! Schedule an appointment with Rejuvenation Dentistry (now in 2 locations: Manhattan & East Hampton) for a holistic, conservative, biological approach to safe teeth whitening.
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