Bright teeth always make for a healthy-looking smile. While getting certain treatments, like in-office dental bleaching, can help you achieve a radiant grin faster, it is actually possible to whiten yours naturally. You just need to know which method works—which is no small feat due to the plethora of at-home DIY options that are rising in popularity, says Dr. Silvia Calderon, a cosmetic dentist at LuxDen Dental Center. Unfortunately, several of the most utilized techniques aren't actually backed by science. "Using common products such as hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, or charcoal can actually cause damage to your teeth and gums if not used properly," she says. "These abrasive ingredients are known to weaken your tooth enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to decay, and may cause inflammation and damage to your gums." If the enamel begins to erode, your teeth will start to look darker after the inner-yellow layer is exposed—and that part cannot ever be whitened.
While visiting your dentist for cleanings about every six months remains the best (and healthiest) way to brighten teeth and remove stains, you can actually whiten teeth without dental intervention. Dr. Calderon points to over-the-counter quality toothpastes; these have fluoride compounds, which strengthen enamel, brighten teeth, and prevent decay. Some of her favorites are Colgate Optic White ($4.99, target.com), Crest 3D White ($3.89, cvs.com), and MOON Stain Removal Anti-Cavity Toothpaste ($8.49, target.com).
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As for some other ways to naturally whiten your teeth sans dental intervention? Start examining what you put in your body. Dr. Calderon says to eat crunchy fruits and vegetables, like apples and carrots, to "promote natural cleaning and stain removal from your teeth." Plus, removing certain foods and drinks from your daily routine could actually help brighten your smile in the long run. Sugary drinks, coffees, and black teas are known to cause heavy stains. However, drinking them through a straw can stop these liquids from staining your teeth, so you won't have to scrap them altogether.
And don't forget to "make sure your diet is rich in calcium to promote stronger tooth enamel and bones," says Dr. Calderon, who advises consuming milk, yogurt, and cheese on a regular basis. By adding these types of foods and drinks to your eating regimen, your enamel will get tougher—and in turn, your teeth will then look whiter, our expert says.