There’s a logical fallacy everyone should know about; it’s known as the appeal to nature. In brief, the fallacy looks like this: if something is natural, then it’s better than something else that “isn’t natural”. There’s a lot of problems with this fallacy. What is natural? Why is something that fits whatever definition for “natural” necessarily better than something that doesn’t fit that definition? The answers to these questions are unclear and often contradictory, which is why the appeal to nature falls under the category of fallacy; it doesn’t make logical sense, though it might make sense emotionally or intuitively. Unfortunately, this fallacy finds its way into healthcare frequently, and the domain of dentistry is no exception. There are many “natural” teeth whitening solutions that simply don’t work.
One of the more popular ones is a type of scrub, using juices from citruses and other fruits along with an abrasive substance like baking powder. The idea behind it is that the acids and enzymes from the fruit along with the abrasive powder will dislodge plaque and stains, whitening teeth. The problem with the scrub, however, is that you really don’t want to be scrubbing acid into your teeth; it weakens the enamel and increases your risk of cavities. This is why you should avoid brushing your teeth for at least 20 minutes to an hour after you’ve eaten something acidic. This “natural remedy”, then, can cause more damage to your teeth than if you weren’t using it, which is why we don’t recommend it.
We discussed oil pulling on one of our previous blogs. The idea is that swishing coconut oil around in your mouth whitens teeth and removes toxins, but there’s no strong evidence supporting this idea. Unlike citrus-abrasive scrubs, there’s no obvious harm to doing this either, other than a waste of perfectly good coconut oil, but if you’re using a technique that doesn’t help in lieu of, say, brushing twice a day, you’re going to get bad results.
Another common whitening myth is that an activated charcoal scrub will whiten your teeth. I think this one got popular on the basis of it’s aesthetics alone; take a super dark scrub, rub it on your pearly whites, and it will get rid of stains! The contrast is appealing, and after cleaning off the scrub, your teeth will almost definitely seem whiter to you; after all, they were the colour of charcoal moments ago! Sadly, aesthetics do not a sound medical technique make, and charcoal scrubs may actually be too rough for your enamel, wearing it away. When enamel is worn away, you start to see the dentin below. Dentin is yellow. This is not what you want.
The best solution, then, is to eschew the appeal to nature and talk to your dentist about an effective teeth whitening procedure. These can take place in the dentist’s chair, as well as at home with a variety of whitening products. There are healthy, safe and effective ways of getting your teeth to look beautiful, so talk to your dentist!