We've all been told to avoid red wine, dark berries, and black coffee in our quests for pearly whites, but what about foods that actually brighten your smile?
They may be bright red, but malic acid, a chief component of this summery fruit, acts as a natural astringent to remove surface tooth discoloration, says Dr. Irwin Smigel, president of the American Society for Dental Aesthetics. Fresh, juicy strawberries taste great in any meal—salads, desserts, cereal—and are widely available at farmers markets this time of year, so getting your daily dose is both simple and delicious.
Chewing these lightly abrasive, hard foods rubs plaque and stains off the surface of teeth, says Dr. Matthew Messina, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. Pop a few almonds for a mid-afternoon snack—they're full of protein, healthy fats, and the crunch you need to get pearly whites.
Although they may not be the ideal pre-date snack, the notoriously bad-for-breath alliums could be beneficial to teeth. Because they're colorless, they won't cause surface stains, says Messina, adding that after eating them you're more likely to brush—which is a surefire way to get whiter teeth.
The loud crunch you hear when you bite into this hard fruit may be annoying, but it's also good for your choppers. Apples' crispiness strengthens gums, and their high water content increases saliva production, dispersing and neutralizing colonies of bacteria that lead to bad breath and plaque, says Smigel.
Take a toothpaste break and try brushing with this common ingredient. Baking soda is a base, like bleach, notes Messina, and the "soda"—which is actually a form of salt—in this pantry staple is a mild abrasive that works to scrub off plaque and surface stains.
The same high water content that makes these veggies great for your waistline and your health also helps them whiten your teeth by stimulating saliva production, which aids in washing away food debris and strengthening gums, according to Smigel.
Unlike beets and cranberries, this crunchy vegetable doesn't stay stuck to teeth, so it won't cause unsightly surface stains, says Messina. Throw some raw broccoli into your lunch—the florets will scrub the surface of teeth, giving them a brief and natural midday brush.
Hard cheese, like the little blocks you get on those delicious appetizer trays, is full of calcium, which strengthens teeth and gums, explains Smigel. Plus, most cheeses are near colorless, meaning they won't stain your teeth. So go ahead, order that cheese plate.
This bright fruit contains citrus, an acid that can wear away tooth enamel if ingested in large doses, making teeth whiter—but at a cost, says Messina. So while we don't recommend gulping down bags of oranges in the spirit of a bright smile, a juicy helping once in a while is good for your pearly whites, and thanks to loads of vitamin C, your overall health too.
Drink lots of water to keep your mouth hydrated and your smile bright, advises Smigel, who recommends sipping and swishing between glasses of wine and when eating dark, pigmented foods to prevent staining. However, while water reduces the acidity in your mouth and the resulting damage to your enamel, Dr. Smigel warns against imbibing too much sparkling water, which has greater potential to erode enamel and harm teeth.
Smigel recommends munching on a pear to neutralize pesky odor-causing and staining bacteria colonies on teeth. Increased saliva production brought on by this sweet, delicious fruit also washes away food debris, leaving teeth clean and sparkling.
These dairy products are teeth superfoods. Their high calcium content strengthens teeth, making enamel healthier and whiter, says Messina. But be warned: Not all calcium-rich foods—like spinach with its dark, stain-causing pigmentation—have the same effect. Chow down on a high-protein Greek yogurt for a snack, or pair after-dinner cookies with a cold glass of milk to get that gleam.