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Yep, banana peels. And believe it or not, it even has the dentist's approval. Because bananas are high in potassium, magnesium, and manganese, the peel is an effective tool for teeth whitening. The pros advise starting with a banana that is just barely ripe, because that's when they have the optimum amount of potassium for whitening and brightening teeth. Cut off a small part of the peel and rub the inside of it against your teeth for about two minutes, covering as many teeth as thoroughly as possible in that time. When you're done, be sure to brush your teeth—bananas are loaded with sugar, so properly cleaning your teeth after and using this treatment just once a day or even just once a week is important.
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Rubbing a black, sooty-looking substance all over your teeth in the name of a white smile might seem odd, but it's surprisingly effective. You might look like you stepped out of a horror movie during the process, but hopefully you'll end up with whiter teeth when it's all said and done. Activated charcoal removes toxins from your mouth while also killing bad bacteria, preventing cavities, and keeping the pH balanced. There are several options with this method—some users opt for charcoal toothpaste or polish, while others buy charcoal pills from the store, crack them open, and use the powder mixed with water as their toothpaste. You might miss the minty freshness of traditional toothpaste, and your charcoal stained toothbrush might gross you out a bit, but hopefully your new, whiter smile will be worth it.
Photo: Carbon Coco
Strawberries and Baking Soda
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Combining one strawberry with a half teaspoon of baking soda and applying the mixture to your teeth for five minutes seems to be effective in brightening teeth, too. Just like with bananas, be sure to brush your teeth with traditional toothpaste after—and if you suspect some strawberry seeds might have lodged themselves between your molars, consider a quick floss session, too.
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Though the "during" snapshot is pretty unsightly, people have been singing the praises of turmeric for the post-treatment photo more and more. Some dip their wet toothbrush directly into the turmeric powder—and then brace themselves, because it doesn't taste very good—brush their teeth like normal, and then let the turmeric sit on their teeth for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly. After that, you can brush your teeth with your regular toothpaste, and once all remnants of the yellow powder have disappeared, you should have a whiter smile to show for it.
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This might not come as a surprise to people who already use coconut oil for everything from a moisturizer, to a hair mask, to a shaving cream, but oil pulling with coconut oil and using it as a teeth cleanser and whitener seems to have some merit. For the most effective results you should oil pull daily for twenty minutes, but feel free to start at five if your jaw gets tired. Don't go crazy on the amount of oil you swish around—most people can use about a teaspoon of oil and see results.
Lemon or Orange Peels
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People have seen some success in using the rind of lemons and oranges for teeth whitening. If you do this, be sure to rinse thoroughly after, or even brush your teeth with your regular toothpaste to avoid potential tooth damage from the acidity. Some people simply add a few drops of orange essential oil to their toothpaste instead, which is safe for your teeth, according to this study.
Lemon Juice and Baking Soda
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To use this method, mix lemon juice with a little bit of baking soda before drying your teeth with a cotton ball or swab to prep for the treatment. Apply the mixture to your teeth, let it sit for a minute, and then gently brush it off. Be sure not to keep the mixture on for more than a minute—after that, you run the risk of enamel erosion.
Apple Cider Vinegar
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An apple a day keeps the doctor away—and an apple cider vinegar mouthwash can lead to brighter and whiter teeth. Dentists recommend creating a solution that is one part apple cider vinegar and two parts water. Swish it around in your mouth for about a minute, rinse, and then wait at least a half hour to brush your teeth to avoid damaging your enamel. This won't lead to an instantly brighter smile—but if it's used properly and consistently, it's a great organic tooth whitening alternative.
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Guava juice is great, but guava leaves are apparently the part of the fruit with the benefits. Crush the leaves up with a mortar and pestle to create a coarse toothpaste. Brush with it like you would normally, and rinse. Unlike some citrus-based teeth whitening solutions, guava leaves aren't acidic, so you don't have to worry about enamel erosion if you keep it on for too long. Bonus: Guava leaves might help alleviate tooth pain, too.
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Perhaps the most surprisingly, clay appears to have some tooth polishing potential. Use water and clay to create a paste, and then apply to your teeth for about two minutes. Over time, your teeth should appear whiter and feel cleaner, too, with zero risk of damage or sensitivity.
Photo: Ravenscourt Apothecary