8 Foods that Naturally Help Teeth Look Whiter

Wednesday May 14 | BY |
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Whiten Teeth

An enzyme in pineapple can help clean teeth and help remove stains.

White teeth make you look younger. They may also make you look more employable.

Those are the findings from recent studies and surveys on the matter. A British survey of men, women, and dentists, for example, found that a white smile makes you look five years younger, 20 percent more attractive, wealthier, and better educated.

A second survey by Strategy One found that Americans believe having white teeth plays a crucial role in making a good first impression, with 60 percent reporting that discolored or stained teeth were detrimental to a job interview—even moreso than having a pimple or unmanicured nails.

A Match.com survey completed in 2013 also reported that the first two things people rate about a potential partner are teeth and grammar.

The first two of these surveys were sponsored by Oral B and Listerine, respectively, so their findings may come as no surprise. Still, most of us feel that white teeth are important in our social interactions. Yet whitening products aren’t cheap, and can cause sensitivity.

Are there better alternatives?

What Causes the Stains in the First Place?

First, it helps to be clear on what causes stains to form. Tobacco is the number-one enemy of white teeth. Tea and coffee are two of the other main culprits. Bacteria left behind, however, can also form into plaque that causes green and orange stains. Early tooth decay can discolor teeth, so proper oral care is critical to keeping teeth white and healthy looking. Diseases that affect enamel, medications, excessive fluoride from environmental sources or rinses, and advancing age can all contribute to the problem.

Foods that Help Whiten Teeth

There are some foods out there that can actually help keep your teeth looking great. Granted, they may not erase years’ worth of stains, but once you have white teeth, they can help you keep them for longer before you have to use harsh products again.

1. Cheese

Don’t have a toothbrush handy? Try snacking on a piece of cheese. A 2013 study published in General Dentistry found that it helped to fight tooth decay. Researchers gave 68 adolescents aged 12 to 15 either cheddar cheese, milk, or sugar-free yogurt. The kids ate for three minutes, and then rinsed with water so scientists could check the pH levels in their mouths. (A lower pH means a more acidic mouth, which raises the risk of erosion.)

The groups consuming milk and yogurt experienced no change in pH levels, but the group eating cheese showed a rapid increase in pH levels at 10, 20, and 30 minutes after eating, suggesting the cheese was lowering acidity and protecting teeth. The researchers added that other compounds in cheese may also adhere to tooth enamel, providing an additional shield against bacteria.

2. Green Tea

It’s a lighter color, so it’s less likely to stain, and on top of that, you get health benefits for your teeth and gums. A 2009 study, for example, analyzed the periodontal health of 940 men. They found that those who regularly drank green tea had healthier teeth and gums than those who didn’t. In fact, for every one cup of tea consumed per day, there was a decrease in the markers of tooth and gum disease.

3. Fruit

A 2010 study reported that eating fruit daily is the best way to whiten teeth. Researchers tried various methods for three months, and determined that strawberries, orange peels, and lemon juice were some of the most effective whiteners you could use. All have enzymes and acids that help break down stains. Just be careful, as too much acid can wear away enamel, so always follow with a glass of water.

A 2013 study from the University of Granada also found that malic acid—which is present in apples—increases saliva, which helps clean teeth and remove stains.

4. Pineapple

Another good fruit for removing stains, pineapple is special because it contains “bromelain,” which is a mixture of natural enzymes that typically work to digest proteins, but can also provide other health benefits. A 2011 study, for instance, found that toothpaste containing bromelain extract provided significant stain removal compared with a control substance.

5. Shiitake Mushrooms

These contain “lentinan,” which is a natural sugar that has anti-bacterial properties. A study by Japanese scientists found that extracts of the mushrooms helped eliminate bacteria in the mouth, which could reduce the risk of plaque-based stains. Better yet, a shiitake mushroom extract worked against the bad bacteria, but not the beneficial types—in that sense, it actually performed better than a leading gingivitis mouthwash.

6. Broccoli

This veggie is rich in iron, which helps fortify teeth against the bacteria that cause stains and decay. Researchers performed an analysis of the effects of broccoli on enamel, and found this to be true. They weren’t sure why, but theorized that the iron created a thin, acid-resistant coating on the surface of teeth, reducing contact with substances that could create wear and tear.

7. Sesame Seed Oil

An old Ayurvedic practice suggests swishing sesame seed oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes to not only reduce bacteria, but help whiten teeth. We don’t have many studies on this, but it’s worth a look. There is one study published in 2009 by Indian researchers that suggests the practice reduced plaque formation on teeth and contributed to gum health.

8. Celery

No scientific studies on this one, but dentists do say that the crunching stimulates saliva production, which naturally protects the surface of teeth. Celery fibers are also like little brushes cleaning teeth and the spaces between them.

Do you notice healthier teeth when you eat these foods? Please share your thoughts.

* * *

Katy Winter, “White teeth can make you look five years younger…and even get you a job,” Daily Mail, April 11, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2307430/White-teeth-make-look-younger-employable-Holly-Willoughby-envied-smile-say-dentists.html.

Emily Hallquist, “Study says white teeth key for jobs,” Duke Chronicle, http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2007/12/06/study-says-white-teeth-key-jobs.

Laura Beck, “Apparently Everyone Wants a Partner with Nice Teeth and Good Grammar?” February 5, 2013, http://jezebel.com/5981696/apparently-everyone-wants-a-partner-with-nice-teeth-and-good-grammar.

Daniel Beekman, “Eating cheese can prevent tooth decay: study,” NY Daily News, June 7, 2013, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/eating-cheese-prevent-tooth-decay-study-article-1.1366604.

Asokan S. “Oil pulling therapy.” Indian J Dent Res. 2008;19:169, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18445939.

Abhinav Singh and Bharathi Purohit, “Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to health,” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, April-June 2011; 2(2):64-68, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131773/.

Kushiyama et al. Relationship Between Intake of Green Tea and Periodontal Disease. Journal of Periodontology, 2009; 80 (3): 372, http://www.joponline.org/doi/abs/10.1902/jop.2009.080510.

“TeethWhitener.net Reveals Shocking Harvard Discovery—The Best Teeth Whitener is Fruit!” PR Web, August 10, 2010, http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2010/08/prweb4357204.htm.

“7 Foods that Whiten Teeth Naturally,” MSN Healthy Living, http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/oral-care/7-foods-that-whiten-teeth-naturally#2.

Kalyana, P., et al., “Stain removal efficacy of a novel dentrifice containing papain and Bromelain extracts—an in vivo study,” Int J Dent Hyg., August 2011; 9(3):229-33, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21356017.

Heitor Marques Honorio, et al., “Effect of Acidic Challenge Preceded by Food Consumption on Enamel Erosion,” Eur J Dent, October 2010; 4(4):412-417, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2948745/?tool=pmcentrez.

Ciric L., et al., “In vitro assessment of shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) extract for its antigingivitis activity,” J Biomed Biotechnol. 2011; 2011:507908, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21966183.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com


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  1. Tara says:

    I love oil pulling. It definitely whitens and improves teeth health.

  2. Hello Colleen;
    Thanks for sharing all the insights.

    I would like to bring to light that there was no distinction made between organic and non organic foods. I can’t imagine that pesticides will improve the health of one’s teeth or any other body part.

    Equally in regards to the cheeses being eaten. Raw versus pasteurized are two different products altogether.
    We know that eating raw cheeses will improve dental health. Velveta on the other hand, possible petroleum product, will not have the fats and proteins in tack that contain the minerals and vitamin K2 that can re-minerlize the teeth and gums.

    I have personally seen gum and teeth health improve with sesame oil pulling.

  3. Leila says:

    I like oil pulling too. Instead of sesame seed oil I use coconut oil 🙂

  4. Liz says:

    I have definitely noticed my teeth are whiter and brighter since I’ve been oil pulling. I normally use coconut oil, but switch to sesame oil and sometimes olive for a variation.

    Have also noticed my breath is sweeter……


  5. Maggie says:

    definitely agree with oil-pulling – highly recommend for teeth/gum health!

  6. Hope says:

    I do the oil pulling with coconut oil and it works great. Feels weird while you are doing it, but afterwards my mouth feels really good. I’ve never heard of doing it with sesame seed oil.

  7. zirah1 says:

    Thanks for the article, Colleen. I would like to re-post it to my Self-help Health blog, with your name and a link back, of course. And two teeth whiteners/stain removers I have heard about that aren’t mentioned here are using the inside of a banana peel and rubbing against your teeth (also supposed to be good for shining your shoes :-)) and also twice a week rubbing your teeth with a bay leaf. I haven’t tried the bay leaf, but have done the peel one, but not consistently enough to notice any difference yet. However, often most of the nutrients of a fruit or vegetable are in the skin/peel, so I figure there’s probably some benefit beyond a whitening effect. 🙂

    p.s. I’m a big fan of oil pulling, too, especially using coconut oil. In fact, I’m a big fan of just about anything having to do with coconut oil.

  8. alice says:

    have you heard of Dr Phillips blotting teschnique?? you can get blotting brushes from a website called toothwizards… works by blotting the plaque instead of brushing it around your mouth.

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