As a dentist, Alexandria-based Dr. Angela Austin gets a lot of questions from patients and friends alike about taking care of their chompers. The most common one, unsurprisingly, is, “How can I get whiter teeth?”
“To answer this question, I tend to focus on overall health,” Austin says. “After all, health and beauty go hand in hand.” We all know the basic drill: brush, floss, avoid smoking. But Austin says diet can also play a huge role in the aesthetics of your smile—and the tooth-staining culprits might not be what you think.
WHAT TO AVOID
According to Austin, a good rule of thumb is that any food or drink that may stain your laundry will stain your teeth. “Intensely pigmented molecules tend to stick to dental enamel,” she explains.
Yes, these veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals—but that deep red hue can cling to hands, clothes, and teeth.
Other culprits: Blueberries, pomegranates, and blackberries
This, too, has health perks, but its acidic nature and deeply pigmented molecules can cause staining and enamel erosion. “Weakened, thin enamel is more susceptible to staining, so avoid foods and drinks that tend to erode enamel,” Austin says. If you are going to drink a dark beverage, Austin suggests using a straw, which will help you avoid discoloring your front teeth.
Other culprits: Coffee, dark-colored teas, and sports drinks
“Unfortunately, many of the culprits for teeth staining are actually packed with rich antioxidants and are healthy for our bodies,” Austin says. “It’s okay to enjoy a glass of red wine or pomegranate juice—just be sure to rinse with water or brush your teeth afterward.”
WHAT TO EAT
Tweaking your diet for whiter teeth is “more a practice of avoiding stain-causing foods and drinks than eating foods that are teeth whiteners,” Austin says. But by munching on these types of foods, we can remove plaque-causing bacteria from our teeth, resulting in a brighter smile.
Crunchy fruits and veggies
“They function as an abrasive scrub for your teeth,” says Austin. “They also have high water content, which stimulates saliva to help wash away bacteria.”
Try: Celery, cauliflower, apples, carrots, pears, and strawberries
“Chewing sugarless gum is a great saliva producer,” Austin says. The more saliva there is in your mouth, the less likely acid will be present to attack your enamel.