1. Regular Dental Appointments
Before you go out and buy a pack of Whitestrips or set up an appointment for hyper-whitening with your local dentist, make sure everything else is taken care of, health-wise. "You want to ascertain that there's no underlying disease before you do a program of whitening, and you also want to make sure you have a thorough cleaning so you can get the best benefits," says dentist Dr. Jeanne Strathearn. In other words, you want to be working with as white a canvas as you can. And, duh, visit your dentist at least twice a year.
2. Avoid Known Stain Causers
You probably know that coffee and red wine stain teeth, but they're certainly not the only culprits that can leave your teeth looking less than stellar. There are plenty of other foods and drinks that can stain your teeth, including:
- white wine
- barbecue sauce
- green tea
- black tea
- sugary treats
- balsamic vinegar
All of these foods or drinks cause or contribute to extrinsic stains. The good news is that extrinsic stains can usually be removed or at least improved, explains Dr. Strathearn. (Other stains—permanent ones—are called intrinsic stains, and can be the result of taking antibiotics when your teeth were developing as a kid. Those are much harder to deal with.)
If you can't imagine giving up your daily coffee or nightly glass of wine, however, just make sure to rinse with water within 30 minutes of consumption. Rinsing with water helps wash away the offending liquid and lessen the likelihood of a stain. Rinsing is better than brushing, because brushing so soon after drinking or eating a stain-causer can make a situation worse, since at that point you'll be scrubbing the food or drink's enamel-eroding acid right into the teeth.
3. Consume Certain Foods
There are foods that can actually brighten your teeth. Fight stains and improve overall oral health by munching on the following:
- Apples. Apples improve your gum health and stimulate saliva production, which helps to rinse away stains.
- Cheese, milk and yogurt. Rich in calcium, all of these help to strengthen teeth enamel and appearance.
- Nuts, celery, broccoli and carrots. The abrasive and coarse abrasive texture of these foods scrubs off stains.
- Raw onions. The sulfur found in raw onions stops plaque from forming.
- Strawberries. The malic acid found in strawberries naturally removes surface stains lurking on your teeth.