Everyone wants a better smile. In fact, according to a recent study, nearly 60 percent of Americans would opt to have better teeth than better skin. And that same study contains another astonishing figure: A whopping 87 percent of Americans would forgo “something”—maybe it’s dessert, maybe it’s vacations—for an entire year to have a perfect smile for the rest of their lives.
However, life is unfortunately not so simple; you can’t just give up pumpkin pie—or that venture to Positano—and expect to miraculously develop an incandescent smile. As with all things, you have to put in the work. That means brushing twice a day and visiting your dentist twice a year. (And the occasional dose of whitening strips.) But there’s yet another step you can take to ensure you have a glistening pair of chompers: You can make use of turmeric.
Yes, turmeric—the same rusty dust you likely have tucked away on your spice rack at this very moment. As it turns out, the stuff has incredible natural teeth whitening benefits. “Turmeric has abrasive properties,” says Dr. Daniel S. Rubinshtein, a New York and Miami–based cosmetic dentist. “So it could whiten your teeth.” Now, in typical parlance, abrasive rarely means anything positive. But in dentistry, it’s a good thing—within reason. When a substance is abrasive, it “scratches the enamel and removes the superficial layer of a stain,” explains Rubinshtein.
So here’s how to do it. For starters, mix a bit of turmeric with coconut oil—an essential substance for the practice of “pulling,” which supposedly quite literally pulls out toxins in your mouth—and standard toothpaste—to keep the mixture together. (What you shouldn’t do, under any circumstances: Rub turmeric by its lonesome directly on your teeth. “It could cause a big mess,” says Rubinshtein.)
Then, use this new paste to brush your teeth gently for about two of three minutes. Rubinshtein is clear-as-day on “gently,” and in fact recommends you use a soft brush. “[A lot of people think] the harder they brush, the cleaner their teeth will be,” says Rubinshtein. “But that could damage the enamel.” And you definitely don’t want to damage enamel, which can leave the sensitive nerves in your teeth exposed; you just want to scratch the surface. When you’re done brushing, be sure to rinse your mouth out thoroughly. (If you’re not thorough enough, turmeric, in all its vivacious orange-yellow glory, could actually stain your teeth.) Do this for a three days in a row every few months and you’ll have a red carpet–ready smile for good.
There are two things to keep in mind when using this natural teeth whitening method. One: “If it causes any sensitivity, stop, and don’t continue,” says Rubinshtein. Two: You want to stay away from anything that may cause further staining to your teeth. A good rule of thumb to know what to avoid, says Rubinshtein, “is to not eat or drink anything that might stain a white shirt.” So that’s coffee, red wine, soda… Hey, we told you it would require work.