En español | Coffee, tea, red wine and some soda can all stain your teeth and darken your smile. But there are some common foods that can actually help whiten your teeth over time. They’re not as thoroughly effective as professional teeth whitening products—but they are cheap and natural. And that should leave you smiling.
They may stain your shirt, but they could work to whiten teeth, since they contain an enzyme called malic acid. Try mashing up strawberries and rubbing them on your teeth. Leave for five minutes then rinse with water and brush and floss as usual.
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2. Apples, celery and carrots
These healthy fruits and veggies act like natural stain removers by increasing saliva production, which serves as the mouth's self-cleaning agent. They also may kill bacteria that causes bad breath, and their crunch factor works to scrub teeth clean.
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3. Oranges and pineapples
Eating tart fruits such as oranges and pineapples may cause the mouth to produce more saliva, which washes teeth clean naturally. Beware of using lemons directly on teeth, because too much acidity can damage teeth.
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4. Baking soda
One 2008 study found toothpastes that contain baking soda — long considered a tooth-whitening home remedy — do a better job of removing plaque than toothpastes without the ingredient.
To try it, your best bet is brushing with a commercial paste that contains the mild abrasive.
Or, once in a while, you can just brush your teeth with baking soda straight from the box.
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5. Yogurt, milk and cheese
Dairy products contain lactic acid, which may help protect teeth against decay. A study in the journal Dentistry found kids who ate yogurt four times per week had less tooth decay than kids who didn't eat yogurt. Researchers think proteins in yogurt may bind to teeth and prevent them from attack by harmful acids that cause cavities. Hard cheeses are best for whitening, since they help remove food particles as well.
Jennifer Nelson is a Florida-based writer who also writes for Glamour, MSNBC and WebMD.
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Go to the AARP home page for tips on keeping healthy and sharp, and great deals.