Are you looking to get a bright smile without visiting your dentist? A quick Google search will turn up dozens of easy methods for whitening your teeth, many relying on items you’ll likely to already have at home. But these simple recipes for whiter teeth may not be all they’re cracked up to be.

Here’s a closer look at the untold dangers of 12 do-it-yourself whitening methods.

Image of a baking soda container
Baking sodabaking-soda

How it works:
Baking soda is a mild abrasive. When mixed with water, it releases free radicals, which break down the stain molecules on the surface of the tooth’s enamel. You can then brush the debris off with a toothbrush.

What you risk:
The abrasive nature of baking soda may eventually wear down your enamel if used too frequently.

The dentist weighs in:
“Unlike most toothpaste, it doesn’t contain fluoride to prevent decay, so you definitely shouldn’t use it as a substitute.”

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)

hydrogen-peroxide
How it works:
Hydrogen peroxide penetrates enamel and causes an oxidation reaction, breaking apart the molecules staining your teeth.

What you risk:
An at-home bleaching attempt could result in tooth sensitivity and irritation of the soft tissues in your mouth, especially your gums. The worst-case scenario is if you swallow the stuff. In small amounts, it can cause stomach irritation and vomiting. In larger amounts, it’s poisonous and may require a trip to the emergency room.

The dentist weighs in:
“Hydrogen peroxide will whiten teeth if it is kept on the surface of the tooth long enough and frequently enough, but too much exposure can cause irritation of the gums and other oral tissue.”

Lemons                                                lemon
How it works:
The acid in lemons leaches minerals from your teeth, making them appear whiter.

What you risk:
The acid can cause permanent damage to your enamel. In fact, a 2007 study found lemon juice to be more harmful to your teeth than either orange or grapefruit juice.

The dentist weighs in:
“No way. Lemon is very acidic and can dissolve your enamel.”

Oil pulling                  oil
How it works:
Swishing for 20 minutes with a glob of coconut oil is all the rage. Not only is it recommended to rid your body of everything from toxins to a hangover, the oil is supposed to absorb the bacteria staining your teeth.

What you risk:
Only a few limited studies suggest benefits of this practice, and there are also no established harms. There are some suggestions it may be linked to the uncommon lung condition lipoid pneumonia, but the bigger risk is that you’ll ditch your fluoride toothpaste in favor of your coconut oil rinse. As for cleaner teeth, the truth is that extensive rinsing is always going to help loosen plaque, whether you’re doing it with water or unrefined oil.

The dentist weighs in:
“I have no knowledge of whether this whitens teeth, but I’m very skeptical.”

Sea salt
How it works:
It’s the same idea as using salt to exfoliate your skin — the crystals rub away the debris on your teeth.

What you risk:
Stains aren’t all you’re rubbing away. You may also be removing a layer of enamel.

The dentist weighs in:
“Because of the abrasive nature of salt, you may remove some surface stains, but if you’re sensitive to sodium or watching your salt intake, it’s probably best to avoid this questionable method.”

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