We all know that our diets can help keep us healthy and prevent disease. But did you know certain foods can actually help whiten your teeth? Some foods contain fiber, which scrubs away stains and prevent plaque from building up. Others contain enzymes that dissolve the protein-based stains that stain enamel.
In this guide, we’ll outline ten foods that can whiten your teeth, a few that can stain your teeth, and suggest some other natural whitening options.
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How Can Food Whiten Your Teeth?
What you put in your body can significantly affect your oral health, including the whiteness of your teeth. Eating too much sugar and non-nutritious carbohydrates can put you at risk of tooth decay, since the bacteria in your plaque turn the sugars you eat into an acid that erodes your enamel.
But believe it or not, some foods have different compounds that can help whiten your teeth and prevent plaque buildup. Below are ten examples of foods to include in your diet and a few to avoid if you want to keep new stains to a minimum.
Foods That Can Whiten Your Teeth
- Strawberries: You might think that strawberries would stain your teeth because they’re red, but they actually have an enzyme called malic acid that helps break down surface stains. Malic acid is present in many berries and fruits — it makes them taste tart, which increases saliva production. As a bonus, this increase in saliva production also washes away food particles, which can prevent decay.
- Papaya: Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which helps break down the protein-based layer on your teeth called the pellicle layer. This layer covers all surface areas of the teeth and allows bacteria and stains to stick. The only other thing that can remove it is a professional cleaning.
- Apples: Despite their own highly acidic nature, apples actually help neutralize harmful acids in your mouth. Many apples are high in malic acid, which accounts for their tart taste and assists in breaking down stains. Because they’re so crunchy, apples can also scrub surface stains from your teeth.
- Carrots: Carrots act like scrub brushes because of their crunchy texture. Their natural crunch also massages your gums, stimulating healthy blood flow. Plus, they’re high in keratin and Vitamin A, which help fight plaque and strengthen enamel, respectively.
- Pineapple: Pineapples contain the enzyme bromelain, which breaks up surface stains, removes existing plaque, and prevents new plaque from forming.
- Celery: Celery’s fibrous texture helps scrub away stains, while its crunch increases saliva production to wash away plaque.
- Watermelon: Watermelons contain our good friend malic acid to stimulate saliva, which helps prevent plaque, block new stains, and neutralize acid. Its fibrous nature also scrubs teeth.
- Orange Peels: While the fruit of an orange is very acidic, their peels aren’t. Orange peels are high in Vitamin C and d-limonene, which help whiten teeth. Wash the peel and gently rub it on your teeth to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
- Broccoli: Broccoli acts like a scrub brush to get rid of plaque and other food particles, but it’s only effective when eaten raw. Its high fiber content can fight inflammation, too. Broccoli also contains iron, which helps keep your teeth strong and healthy.
When Will I Start to Notice a Difference?
Adapting your eating habits to include these foods won’t whiten your teeth overnight. In fact, it may take several weeks before you see any results.
You might notice that your teeth aren’t developing any new stains, even if you continue to consume food and drinks that stain your teeth.
These foods also won’t remove intrinsic stains caused by certain medications, childhood illnesses, and over-exposure to fluoride as your teeth were forming.
What To Avoid: Six Foods That Can Stain Your Teeth
If you’re going to add food to your diet that might whiten your teeth, there are some you can limit or avoid to reduce your risk of developing new stains.
- Citrus: The pulps of oranges, lemons, and limes are high in acid, and while they might not stain your teeth directly, they can erode your enamel, letting the yellow dentin beneath the enamel show through.
- Coffee, wine, and tea: Tannins in these beverages give them color and taste, but they also attract teeth-staining sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and enzymes.
- Tomato sauce: The lycopene that gives tomatoes their red color can also stain your teeth. Tomatoes are highly acidic and can also erode your enamel.
- Soda: Regardless of color, all sodas are acidic and can erode your enamel over time. Dark-colored sodas contain chromogens, colored particles that stick to your enamel, which can make your teeth look even darker.
- Dark dressings and sauces: Dark sauces like soy sauce and balsamic vinegar can stain your teeth easily.
- Some berries: The juice from berries like blueberries and cherries can stain your teeth. Berries that are particularly acidic, like cranberries and grapes, are more prone to erode your enamel.
Other Natural Whitening Options
If you already eat most of the foods listed above and want some extra whitening power, here are a few all-natural whitening options that can give your teeth a brightness boost.
Baking soda can whiten your teeth by scrubbing away surface stains, but don’t overdo it or you’ll scratch your enamel and irritate your gums. The safest way to whiten your teeth with baking soda is to mix it with water or a small amount of hydrogen peroxide and make a paste.
You can also purchase toothpaste that lists baking soda as the main ingredient, or sprinkle baking soda on top of your toothpaste before you brush.
Hydrogen peroxide dissolves stains on your teeth through oxidation. It can penetrate layers of the enamel to remove deep stains plus stains in the dentin, which sits right below the enamel.
Whitening your teeth with hydrogen peroxide is safe, as long as you use only a small amount to avoid damaging your teeth, gums, and oral tissue.
You can use peroxide several ways to whiten your teeth:
- Dilute it with water to make an at-home DIY mouth rinse.
- Add it to baking soda to make a paste.
- Purchase a toothpaste or mouth rinse that includes it as the active ingredient.
- Purchase professional or at-home teeth whitening products that use it as the active ingredient.
Remember: You won’t see immediate or significant results from eating these foods. But they might prevent your teeth from developing new stains and may help keep your teeth white between rounds of professional or at-home whitening.
These foods are also nutritious and packed with fiber and protein, making them a great addition to your regular diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I take vitamins or supplements to whiten my teeth instead?
Supplements can’t remove stains from your teeth, but calcium and vitamin D3 help remineralize tooth enamel and keep your smile bright.
I already eat all the foods that are supposed to whiten your teeth. Why are my teeth still yellow?
It’s possible that the stains on your teeth aren’t surface stains, but darkened dentin under your enamel. To lighten the dentin, you’d need to have a professional whitening session or use a highly concentrated at-home teeth whitening product.
Will any foods remove stains deep in my enamel?
No. Using foods to whiten teeth works well on minor surface stains but won’t penetrate deep in the enamel.
Can any drinks whiten my teeth?
Drinking water won’t remove stains, but it will help keep your body hydrated, and it rinses away food particles and bacteria that might cause stains by sitting on your teeth.
Can certain foods or drinks stain your teeth permanently?
Yes! Tobacco and foods/drinks with artificial colors and dyes can build up on your teeth, just like red wine, coffee, and berries. If you don’t scrub them away with a toothbrush or professional cleaning, they can form permanent stains.
Is it safe to eat these foods every day?
Yes! These foods have many valuable vitamins and minerals. If you choose to incorporate all of them into your daily diet, be sure to drink enough water to accommodate the higher fiber intake.
Can I eat these foods cooked and still get the same whitening benefits?
Not typically. Many foods that whiten your teeth rely on their crunchiness to scrub minor surface stains from your teeth, so you should eat them raw for the full whitening benefit.
Are there ways to boost the whitening power of certain foods?
Yes, you can combine the foods on this list with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide or you can have a professional whitening session and add these foods to your diet to help keep them white.
Can I combine these foods with other natural whitening methods?
Yes — but be careful! While it’s safe to include all these foods in your daily diet, don’t overdo it with baking soda, peroxide, and commercial teeth whitening. You can cause sensitivity and enamel or gum erosion if you use too much too quickly. Check with your dentist before combining whitening methods.
Can I mix baking soda and peroxide to whiten my teeth?
Yes! In fact, it’s a popular way to whiten at home. Mix baking soda with just enough peroxide to make a paste. Apply it to your teeth and let it sit for a couple of minutes before rinsing it off. Don’t swallow the mixture or you might get an upset stomach.