Turmeric is all the rage. Originating in Eastern medicine, primarily from India, turmeric is touted as a powerhouse anti-inflammatory ingredient. Many natural product manufacturers with oral care lines have started adding turmeric to their whitening toothpastes, claiming that the spice boosts the whitening effect. Does it work? The short answer: kind of, and it doesn’t hurt either.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a flowering plant similar to ginger. It’s known for its very vibrant goldenrod color and slightly spicy kick. It’s mostly used to prepare traditional desi cuisine - Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi food. Turmeric is the core of any curry dish, lending its bold color and warm, spicy kick that makes homemade dishes taste special.
So how did we come to treat curry spice as a health aid? Like ginger, clove, cinnamon, and other potent root spices, turmeric is an important component of folk and ayurvedic medicine. Power, tea, and tinctures of turmeric are often used in home health remedies due to the reported health benefits of turmeric.
The Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric has been studied as a natural remedy for many conditions, including inflammation. Results and opinions vary among medical professionals. No studies have reported turmeric to be harmful, but many report it to be mildly effective or ineffective as a remedy for many conditions. Studies that evaluated turmeric solely for its antioxidant properties did show clinically significant results.
It may sound confusing, but the answer is simple. A 2017 study explained it best. Turmeric itself is not an anti-inflammatory that can cure, treat, or prevent any diseases. As a powerful antioxidant, it undoubtedly can mitigate oxidative stress on the body. This helps the body remove mitigating factors that contribute to inflammation. Turmeric is not the anti-inflammatory - you are. Turmeric is merely a catalyst to ease recovery.
Turmeric is beneficial to the body in the same way that eating a clean, healthy diet is beneficial. Your body gets more of the nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins it needs to run efficiently. It isn’t magic - it’s just good common sense. When you’re powered by the right fuel, you run better. If your diet isn’t rich in antioxidants, turmeric can help to supplement what you’re missing so your body can better manage its own natural healing processes.
Turmeric in Toothpaste
Many natural toothpaste companies have taken to adding turmeric to their formulas. It’s unclear why turmeric is perceived as a tooth whitening ingredient. Turmeric has a strong yellow color that can leave behind a stain. While its flavor is pleasant in small doses, like in curried vegetables or as a dipping sauce for roti, it certainly isn’t comparable to the minty fresh feeling and aroma that most toothpastes leave to linger.
Somewhere, somehow, the internet suggested that turmeric can whiten teeth. People were eager to jump aboard that train. Turmeric has many loyal users who swear by its antioxidant properties. It seems that people wanted to believe that its tooth whitening power would be just as promising.
Currently, the American Dental Association can find no tooth whitening benefits associated with turmeric. This doesn’t mean that the toothpaste is completely without benefits.
How Whitening Toothpastes Work
There are two kinds of whitening toothpastes. Some toothpastes use abrasive agents to gently scrub away surface stains over time. Anything highly abrasive is bad for tooth enamel, which cannot replace itself once its been worn away. Some natural toothpaste companies opt to use gentler abrasive agents for subtler results that will help you achieve a whiter smile without significantly impacting the structure of tooth enamel.
Other whitening toothpastes utilize bleaching agents like peroxide. Peroxide seeps inside of the tooth, bonding to and removing stains that have seeped inside the structure of the tooth. Peroxide whitening toothpastes rely on your teeth to be porous. Ideally, your teeth will never be porous. If they are, this means that your enamel has lost structural integrity.
Frequently using peroxide based whitening products can significantly degrade the quality of your enamel over time. This can lead to sensitive, weak teeth. Over time, dental health problems will begin to emerge as the teeth continue to erode.
Problematic ingredients like peroxide are likely the reason that people are searching for tooth whitening alternatives. Most health conscious consumers aren’t quick to put something in their mouth that will lead to significant tooth damage.
Turmeric is neither a bleaching agent nor an abrasive agent. Unfortunately, turmeric doesn’t possess any of the properties of an ingredient that would make it an effective tooth whitening product. This doesn’t mean that using or making turmeric toothpaste is entirely without benefits. Turmeric toothpaste can be a great thing if you understand why you’re using it and exactly what the real benefits are.
Making Your Own Turmeric Toothpaste
Major manufacturers began to formulate and market turmeric infused toothpastes as a result of public demand. Turmeric toothpaste has a “do it yourself” origin. People were sharing recipes for homemade alternatives to commercially available toothpastes that included turmeric as what they believed to be an active ingredient.
Many recipes for turmeric toothpaste are circulating the web. The most popular recipe appears to be a ratio of two parts turmeric to one part coconut oil and one part baking soda. The idea is to use that mixture as an alternative to actual toothpaste.
While the recipe is undoubtedly free from artificial or harmful ingredients, it also lacks beneficial ingredients. There’s no fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate, artificial colors, artificial flavors, or triclosan. Many health conscious consumers would perceive this to be a plus. The problem resides mostly in what the toothpaste doesn’t contain.
This formula doesn’t possess any significant antibacterial or antimicrobial properties that would effectively eliminate oral bacteria. There are plenty of safe and natural ingredients that will work to kill or disable bacteria in the mouth, but this folk recipe fails to include any of them. For this reason, it’s probably not a wise idea to rely exclusively on turmeric toothpaste.
If Turmeric Doesn’t Whiten Your Teeth, What Does?
People who are devoutly committed to this turmeric toothpaste formula insist that their toothpaste is whitening their teeth. It might be whitening their teeth to some extent, but the benefits aren’t coming from the turmeric. They’re coming from the baking soda.
Baking soda is a popular tooth whitening ingredient, as it is gently abrasive and can work to buff away surface stains. The American Dental Association uses a ranking system called the RDA (Relative Dental Abrasivity) scale to evaluate how abrasive a toothpaste is. Highly abrasive toothpastes, like those that promise to rid teeth of stubborn plaque, are highly abrasive.
Baking soda scores towards the lower end of the RDA scale. It is an effective, yet gentle, abrasive agent that can help rid teeth of the buildup that causes plaque and stains while helping to gradually whiten the teeth over time.
If it’s gentle whitening benefits you’re after, look for a toothpaste that contains baking soda. Baking soda will do its job with or without turmeric. If you’re not a fan of a pungent, golden, peppery flavored toothpaste, simply mix baking soda and coconut oil in a one to one ratio to make a natural whitening treatment.
So Why Use Turmeric Toothpaste?
Turmeric doesn’t play a role in whitening your teeth, but that doesn’t mean it won’t provide any oral health benefits. Since turmeric is a powerful antioxidant, it can help your body manage swollen or inflamed gums. Using a little bit of turmeric toothpaste as a pre-brushing treatment has the potential to boost your mouth’s natural healing power.
Better still, mix some turmeric with melted room temperature coconut oil and swish with it. You won’t be using any unnecessary abrasive ingredients or over-brushing your teeth when you elect to use turmeric in the form of a mouthwash.
It’s important to brush your teeth with a proper toothpaste after using a turmeric treatment for your gums. Turmeric is a food that will leave particles behind in your mouth. Turmeric is used to make yellow dyes due to its staining power, and you don’t want to leave remnants of a yellow dye in your mouth. This is contrary to the purpose of tooth whitening.
Properly managing the bacteria in your mouth is the only way to achieve optimal oral health. Don’t use turmeric in your oral care routine to the detriment of a proper toothpaste with antibacterial properties.
Turmeric is a largely misunderstood ingredients. It does boast benefits, but many people are confused as to what those benefits actually are. Turmeric can play a role in your general health, but in a supplementary fashion. It can’t replace good hygiene practices or proper nutrition. If you want to use turmeric, use turmeric. There’s certainly no harm in doing so. Just be aware that it isn’t an ultimate panacea that will take the place of adequate self care.