Here’s an ironic little fact — while you may joke about how embarrassing it is to give someone a big smile and then learn that you have a bit of spinach stuck in your teeth, it turns out that spinach is actually a food that helps whiten your teeth! Certain foods could help keep teeth sparkly bright — especially after they’ve been whitened because even the strongest whitening treatment usually begins to fade after six months.
For the longest-lasting results after whitening, which foods should we avoid, and which, if any, should we make a point of eating?
FOODS TO AVOID OR LIMIT
When you get your teeth whitened, be watchful of what you eat during the first 48 hours after the whitening procedure. That’s because the treatment temporarily makes the enamel of your teeth more porous and thus more vulnerable to foods and drinks that tend to darken teeth. An easy way to judge — limit anything that you imagine would easily stain a white T-shirt, including…
- Dark drinks, such as coffee, tea, cola and red wine, and dark juices, such as grape juice and cranberry juice. If you can’t live without some of these, sip them through a straw so the liquid doesn’t directly hit your teeth.
- Certain brightly or deeply colored foods — these include blueberries, blackberries, cherries, pomegranates, popsicles and hard candies, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce, beets and curry. These foods contain chromagens, which are pigmented molecules that latch onto the enamel and result in staining.You may be thinking, what if I brush my teeth immediately after eating one of these types of food? Actually, it is best not to do that, as I will explain.
For long-lasting whiteness, it’s also best to limit (since it’s tough to avoid) eating or drinking things that are acidic because acidity temporarily softens the enamel, thereby allowing chromagens to attach to the enamel, making discoloration more likely. I’m afraid that the “acidic” category is a large category that includes — but is not limited to — sports and energy drinks, all artificial sweeteners, citrus, pasta, peanuts, beef, pork, shellfish, milk and beer. If you can’t cut out acidic foods or drinks, brush your teeth about a half-hour after consuming them (the half-hour leaves time for your enamel to reharden).
FOODS TO EAT
But not all foods will darken your teeth — in fact, quite a few will actually help maintain that pearly white color.. regularly eating the following (especially in the two days after whitening)…
- Apples, pears, celery, carrots, cauliflower and cucumbers. These fruits and vegetables have enough fiber to act as natural scrubbing agents.
- Lettuce, spinach and broccoli. These vegetables contain a compound that produces a light film that helps protect your teeth from stains… yet another reason to start dinner with a salad!
- Cheese. All cheeses (especially cheddar) contain fats and proteins that counter the acids contained in many foods. Cheese stimulates saliva production and also contains calcium and phosphorous, both of which help to protect teeth by remineralizing enamel.
EASY (AND CHEAP!) HOME REMEDIES FOR WHITENING
You don’t have to eat some foods — you can simply rub them onto your teeth for a whitening boost. Here are two whitening tricks that you can use as often as you like…
- Rub orange peel on your teeth. The white inside of an orange peel — called the pith — contains chemicals that help whiten your teeth. Rub it onto your teeth for a few minutes and then brush a half-hour later.
- Apply a paste of strawberries and baking soda. Strawberries contain a compound that acts as a natural bleaching agent, which is especially effective when mixed with baking soda. Mash a just-ripe strawberry, and mix it with some baking soda until it has the consistency of paste. (The strawberries are acidic, but the baking soda neutralizes the acid.) Apply it to your teeth, leave it on for 20 minutes and then rinse. Wait a half-hour and then brush your teeth well to rid your mouth of the natural sugar that strawberries contain.
It’s refreshing to know that there are cheap and easy ways to keep your smile bright.