Are you making your teeth more yellow?

Are you making your teeth more yellow?

If you are on social media, chances are you are no stranger to the charcoal or bentonite clay toothpaste advertisements telling you that they can make your teeth whiter.  But, is this true?  Being a dental hygienist for 25 years, I can tell you emphatically, no!  

What people need to understand is that you only have one coating of enamel on your teeth.  This is not something that grows back so it’s very important that you protect your enamel by not consuming extremely acidic things, such as soda.  It’s also important to avoid abrasive toothpastes that promise whiter teeth because the abrasiveness actually MAKES your teeth more yellow.  Once you wear through the enamel, which is the white part of your tooth, your dentin (the inner part of your tooth) becomes exposed.  The dentin is softer and yellow in color.  In fact, you may notice an increase in tooth sensitivity as well.  This is because every tooth has tiny little openings, called tubules in the root surface.  Once the enamel is worn away exposing the dentin, these tubules become open.  Using abrasive agents such as bentonite clay, activated charcoal, hydrated silica, or diatomaceous earth can irritate these tubules by keeping them open, so every time you breath in or drink something cold, it hurts.  

How do you know if your toothpaste is abrasive?  Make sure it doesn’t contain any of the ingredients I mentioned above and you can also review what’s called the RDA (Relative Dentin Abrasion) chart online to see where your toothpaste ranks (  Basically, anything above a 70 is considered abrasive.  Even Sensodyne is between a 72 and a 79.  Earth Paste, a toothpaste with bentonite clay lists their RDA value as 105, but some of the commercial whitening toothpastes can be between 150 to 200.  Baking soda is only a 7 of the scale so it’s the mildest cleanser possible.  Unfortunately, it’s gotten a bad rap for being abrasive but it is the safest, most clinically tested ingredient on the market, unlike bentonite clay or activated charcoal.  There are currently zero studies that have shown their safety in long term dental use.  Also, for those consumers that are on medication, you should be careful using any toothpaste with bentonite clay or activated charcoal in general because they are known “binders,” so consult your doctor to make sure this isn’t affecting your medications.  Remember your mouth is the most vascular area of your whole body.

Toothpastes that contain potassium nitrate, or my personal favorite, Arginine, are clinically proven to help alleviate sensitivity by sealing the tubules closed.1 Try using toothpaste that is below a 70 and be mindful of sipping on acidic things which reduces the pH in your mouth to dangerous levels.  Decay begins once the pH drops below a 5.5 so make sure you rinse your mouth out with water after you have coffee or something acidic.  If you want to drink a soda, drink it with a meal, don’t sip on it as that is constantly bathing your teeth in acid.  Chewing xylitol-based gum is also an excellent way to reduce harmful bacteria and increase your pH to safer levels.  Bacteria cannot feed on xylitol, unlike regular table sugar. 

Using a soft bristled toothbrush is also important because it’s not how hard you scrub your teeth that makes them clean, it’s the amount of time that you spend brushing.  Plaque is soft and sticky, so brushing at the gumline with an electric toothbrush is the best way to effectively remove plaque without damaging your teeth.  I don’t know about you, but when I use a manual toothbrush it’s like a weapon in my hand and I scrub way too hard.  The large back and forth strokes are very harsh on your teeth and can brush your gums away making your teeth more yellow by exposing the root surfaces.  Lightly hold an electric toothbrush with a couple of fingers to ensure a more gentler brushing technique.  According to scientific research, the best electric toothbrushes are the ones that use ultrasonic vibration. 

If you want your teeth to be whiter, simply brush with baking soda in between dental cleanings and if you have no amalgam (silver) fillings in your mouth, swish with hydrogen peroxide for 2 minutes per day, but don’t do this more than a few weeks a year as the hydrogen peroxide can damage your teeth and create sensitivity.  Coconut oil pulling has been touted as an all-natural way to whiten teeth as well.  The down side of oil pulling is that you need to do it for 20 minutes per day to get any results. 

There are several commercial whitening options available depending on your budget.  The over-the-counter ones are not as effective as the professional kits because they usually work best on “younger” teeth and can also create more sensitivity.  In-office whitening is available through Zoom or Colgate Optic White but the price tag is more significant.  Professional whitening definitely helps, but if you drink coffee, or anything dark for that matter, you will need to do this yearly as the results are usually temporary

If you’re looking for that perfect Hollywood smile, more than likely you would need veneers as the porcelain is baked-on in a lab and applied to the individual teeth.  However, there is also maintenance involved with veneers as they may need to be replaced every 10 years so that can be very pricey.

The best and least expensive way to have white teeth is to use toothpastes that are for sensitive teeth and maintain getting them professionally cleaned at least twice per year.

If you have specific whitening questions, please feel free to reach out to me or visit my website


Bio:  Heather Paul, (aka Heather the Hygienist) is the Owner and Founder of Simply Silver Mouthwash/Silvolution, LLC , a certified biological dental hygienist and registered dental hygienist for 25 years, author of The Great Tooth Deception and Dentistry for Dummies, personal dental consultant and public speaker.  She enjoys educating people on the root cause of oral health and systemic disease.   Please visit or contact directly at

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