“Teeth naturally yellow as we age so whitening them will automatically make you appear younger,” says Dr. Todd Barsky, a board certified prosthodontist. Having great teeth is very important in our culture today, in fact according to a Columbia University study, women with healthier-looking teeth generally earn more than those with less sparkling smiles. The sad truth is no matter how many times you brush your teeth that does not necessarily mean you are whitening them. Teeth are easily stained from drinking coffee, tea and/or smoking. First impressions matter and having an unhealthy smile may come across that you don’t really care about yourself.
Dr. Barsky explains, “A tooth’s outer surface is made up of thousands of enamel rods; hollow structures stacked like thin straws. These rods absorb pigments from everything you eat and drink. So when you fill those holes with bacteria fighting foods it bubbles into the tubules and lightens those pigments.”
Let’s take a look at a list of foods that may naturally whiten your teeth:
This juicy fruit may stain your shirt but it could also help to whiten your teeth. Strawberries contain an enzyme called malic acid which acts as an astringent to remove surface discoloration and even remove some plaque buildup. Combine a mashed strawberry with a ½ teaspoon of baking soda, leave on for 5 minutes and you’ve got yourself a completely natural tooth-cleanser that will buff away coffee, red wine and sugary drink stains. Don’t forget to brush and floss as you normally would to get the strawberry seeds out.
Apples, Celery and Carrots
“Apples, celery and carrots are all high in cellulose, a strong starch-like compound that acts as a natural abrasive to clean teeth and remove surface stains naturally,” says Dr. Barsky. These three healthy foods also increase saliva production, which is the mouth’s self-cleaning agent. Add in the crunch factor and every time you bite down you’re literally scrubbing your teeth without even trying!
Oranges, Pineapples and Lemons
Citrus fruits usually also allow your mouth to produce more saliva than normal, which will wash your mouth and cleanse your teeth. Once you are finished eating an orange it is also a great idea to use the inside of the peel, white side facing your teeth, and rub it directly on your teeth to whiten them. However, too much citrus can severely damage your teeth, so Dr. Barsky recommends, “After eating or drinking foods and beverages with high acid content, make sure to wash it down with a glass of water.”
Yogurt, Milk and Cheese
Dairy products contain lactic acid, which reduces periodontal disease and also controls growth and protects against tooth decay. Dr. Barsky believes, “If you are a regular coffee drinker adding milk to your cup will add value to your teeth whitening efforts by reducing coffee’s discoloration capability.” In addition to preserving and improving your teeth enamel, which are both important to maintain a dazzling smile, hard cheeses are definitely more powerful for scrubbing and whitening compared to soft cheeses. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, even assists in getting rid of food particles stuck between teeth while you’re eating.
Want to protect your veneers from staining?
Dr. Barsky explains, “Veneers should not stain if the porcelain is done correctly. However, I suggest drinking a glass of water after every meal to wash the food down properly. Especially if you are eating or drinking anything with a large amount of sugar you should really swish the water around since sugar can erode the tooth structure and cause decay around veneers if the sugar remains in the mouth for too long.”
Here’s to a healthy and beautiful set of pearly whites!