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Turmeric Teeth Whitening (What the Science Says)

Jennifer Huizen Headshot
Written by
Jennifer Huizen
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Khushbu Gopalakrishnan
11 Sources Cited

Can Turmeric Actually Whiten Teeth?

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a yellow-orange spice native to Southeast Asia. It is related to ginger.1

People use turmeric as a culinary spice to add flavor and color to food. Some traditional medicine systems, such as those in India and China, also use turmeric for medicinal purposes.1

Turmeric’s Effects on Teeth

Many studies explore the proposed health benefits of turmeric. However, there is no research to support the use of turmeric as a tooth whitener. 

Curcumin is responsible for most of the potentially therapeuticproperties of turmeric. Some studies also claim curcumin has health benefits that may improve oral health

Turmeric may affect oral health by acting as an:

  • Antioxidant, which prevents damage to cells from free radicals 
  • Anti-inflammatory, which reduces inflammation
  • Antimicrobial, which inhibits the growth of microbes like bacteria, fungi, and parasites

More research is necessary to confirm the oral health benefits of turmeric and curcumin. But in one 2013 study, researchers suggest that the potential dental applications of turmeric include:3

Reduced dental pain 

Using ground, roasted turmeric to massage the teeth and gums may reduce inflammation and swelling. 

According to Dr. Khushbu Gopalakrishnan, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, “it is important to visit a dentist if you have persistent pain that is not improving over time, rather than using turmeric or other products to simply treat the symptoms and not the underlying disease.” 

Relief from periodontitis and gingivitis

Periodontitis is a type of bone disease, while gingivitis refers to gum disease. Both can cause gingival inflammation and pain.

Rubbing the teeth and gums with a paste made from 1 tsp turmeric, ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp mustard oil twice daily may reduce the symptoms of these conditions.

Prevent plaque formation and gingivitis 

Using a mouthwash made by dissolving 10 mg of curcumin extract in 100 ml of distilled water and 0.005% of peppermint oil may be as effective as the prescription mouthwash chlorhexidine.

In a 2012 study, a turmeric mouthwash had similar efficacy to traditional mouthwashes in its anti-plaque, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory abilities.4

Improve results from scaling and root planing

Scaling and root planing, or “deep cleanings” are usually done in a dentist’s office to treat periodontitis. Using a 2% turmeric gel alongside scaling and root planing may increase its effectiveness. 

Prevent cancer from developing 

Compounds in turmeric may reduce the risk of cancer. They might also reduce the risk of precancerous lesions such as leukoplakia and lichen planus from becoming cancerous. 

How to Whiten Teeth With Turmeric 

There is no scientific reason to use turmeric to whiten your teeth. However, some dentists say that turmeric may reduce or eliminate tooth stains.5

To make a DIY turmeric paste, mix:

  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cold-pressed coconut oil (optional)

Apply the paste to your teeth for a few minutes. You can also use a toothbrush to brush the paste onto your teeth. Spit it out after use and rinse your mouth with water.

Some people chew turmeric root to whiten the teeth, then spit it out and rinse with water. But this process can take a lot of time since you need to chew the root around every individual tooth

Risks of Turmeric Teeth Whitening 

Most turmeric products are safe and non-toxic when used as recommended.1 Around 40 to 85% of consumed turmeric passes through the digestive tract unchanged.3 

But there is the potential for turmeric to cause some problems. Adverse effects that may occur with turmeric include:3

Digestive problems such as: 

  • Upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea
  • Allergic skin reactions
  • Interference with the formation of blood clots 

Alternative Teeth Whitening Options That Work 

There are more effective products you can use to whiten your teeth at home. You can also have your teeth whitened by a dental professional.

Effective whitening treatments typically use bleaching compounds, including hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These compounds reach below the tooth’s surface to remove stains from the outside of teeth. Whitening products and treatments only work on natural teeth, not on teeth with fillings and crowns. 

Options include:

  • Whitening toothpastes with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
  • Whitening formulas in the form of strips or trays you temporarily wear or gels you apply to the teeth with a brush.
  • LED whitening kits, which use light emitting diode (LED) devices. You can use this special light with whitening formulas to increase their efficacy.
  • Professional treatments done in a dental office. They often consist of pastes or gels with much higher peroxide levels than at-home products. In most cases, dentists use special lasers or lights to speed up the whitening process. You may also be given special whitening trays to use at home.

Summary

There is no scientific evidence to support the use of turmeric for tooth whitening. But turmeric may benefit oral health by acting as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant agent. 

Instead, several at-home products and professional treatments can effectively reduce tooth discoloration and provide a whiter smile. These include LED whitening kits, in-office whitening, and over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products like toothpaste and mouthwash.

Talk to a dentist about the best way to whiten your teeth. 

Last updated on May 13, 2022
11 Sources Cited
Last updated on May 13, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Turmeric.
  2. Mouth Healthy. “Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction.
  3. Nagpal, Monika, et al. . “Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview.
  4. Mali, Amita. M., et al. . “Comparative evaluation of 0.1% turmeric mouthwash with 0.2% chlorhexidine gluconate in prevention of plaque and gingivitis: A clinical and microbiological study.” Journal of the Indian Society of Periodontology.
  5. Ask the Dentist. “DIY Turmeric Teeth Whitening Paste.” 
  6. American Dental Association. “Tooth Whitening.”
  7. American Dental Association. “Whitening.
  8. Kalliath, C., et al. . “Comparison between the effect of commercially available chemical teeth whitening paste and teeth whitening paste containing ingredients of herbal origin on human enamel.” An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda.
  9. Mayo Clinic. “Does whitening toothpaste actually whiten teeth.
  10. Mayo Clinic. “Gingivitis.
  11. Mayo Clinic. “Periodontitis.
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