The Teeth Whitening Diet

***UPDATED: June 26, 2014*** A recent Dentistry Today article confirms what some already know: there are several foods and drinks that affect your oral health, but another has been added to the list. Green tea has long time been acknowledged due to its tannins and polyphenols that have the ability to stop plaque and bacteria from sticking to the surface of the tooth and doing damage. While in-office teeth whitening is always the most effective and safest method, there are several over-the-counter methods available, along with a handful of DIY treatments. Strawberries are one known, natural whitener, which can be mashed into a paste with baking soda to create a solution. And the most recent addition to the list, dark chocolate, has been found to toughen enamel. The bitter power of the delectable treat, also known as theobromine, hardens the protective outer-layer of teeth and can add protection against staining and wear. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about milk chocolate due to its high sugar content that can actually cause bacteria and bad breath.

Did you know that one of the first things people notice about you is your smile? Not only can a brighter and whiter smile make us feel better about ourselves, according to experts, it can also make you look younger.  Dr. Timothy Chase, a cosmetic dentist in NYC says that healthy gums and whiter teeth can take up to 10 years off of your appearance.  Nothing can brighten your smile quite like professional care, but there are other things you can do to help aid this process at home, as shared in the msnbc.com story, “Eat (and drink) your way to a whiter, healthier smile,” by Jennifer Nelson.

Everyone knows you should brush your teeth regularly to help keep your teeth healthy and your smile bright, but there are also several foods that help too.  Apples, celery, carrots, and cauliflower act as a coarse brush for your teeth.  They also help produce saliva, which keeps plaque from forming and causing stains.  Oranges and pineapples are very acidic, which may cause some to think they’re bad for your teeth, when actually the acid may whiten the tooth surface.  The acid also contains enzymes that fight bacteria that cause bad breath and tooth decay.  Yet another enzyme, malic acid (found in strawberries), can whiten teeth.  Yogurt, milk, and hard cheeses are also recommended to protect your teeth because the proteins act as a barrier while the calcium strengthens them.  It’s amazing what foods can do!

Just as some foods help your smile, some can be detrimental.  If you were to inspect a tooth under a microscope, you’d be able to see that it looks a bit like a sponge, with several holes and grooves.  Some foods and beverages can get stuck in these crevices causing staining over time.  Coffee, tea, and red wine have the worst reputation for this, and while they are guilty of dulling your smile, one of the worst offenders is actually soda.  The acid in pop causes the holes in your teeth to open wider and the color then stains more easily.  Blueberries, soy sauce, and tobacco are also on the less desirable list.  Dr. Joe Kravitz, author of “Dirty Mouth,” states that it only takes 7 seconds for staining to start.  If you’re not in a position to brush immediately, rinsing your mouth with plain water will certainly help, as will chewing sugarless gum.

You only get to make a first impression once, and if your smile is what people notice first, you surely want it to be the brightest possible.  Visit with your cosmetic or sedation dentist to explore options in whitening your smile.

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