The allure of white teeth is emphasized everywhere, from marketing campaigns to social media. Genetics can play a roll in how pearly your whites are, as can lifestyle choices. Some people struggle with yellowed teeth, ever searching for the perfect product to create a dazzling smile, but they may still eat foods and adopt practices that work against their best efforts. Ultimately, ridges and microscopic divots in tooth enamel will trap food and drink pigments, and darker pigments will lead to stains. So, in the search for the perfect smile, what should you avoid, what should you include, and how can you whiten your teeth naturally?

Avoid Foods That Stain

Most people know drinks like coffee can strain their teeth, but it can be hard to give up these popular pick-me-ups. Wine, coffee, tea, and fruits like blueberries and blackberries are tough to avoid completely -- and they have health benefits, too -- but there are small ways to lessen their impact. When it comes to coffee, people who like it black are at the greatest disadvantage. Adding some milk can reduce the drink's staining power.

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Drink More Water

Water can help wash away some of the staining chemicals in berries and pigment-rich drinks like tea and coffee. Drinking water in between sips of coffee and in between staining snacks can lessen their impact. Drinking with a straw is also a good option that enables you to bypass tooth enamel completely, though this is often not realistic for hot beverages. Of course, drinking water, in general, is always a good option to aid oral and overall health.

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Increase Calcium Intake

Calcium and phosphate are essential in tooth development, and the former is vital for strengthening teeth and enamel. The best sources of calcium are found in foods such as cheese, milk, salmon, and sardines. While dairy is a well-known source of calcium, vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli also contain lots of the beneficial vitamin, highlighting the importance of a diverse and balanced diet in dental hygiene.

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Consider Medications

Certain medications can cause the yellowed teeth. A compound for treating gingivitis, as well as antibiotics used to treat severe acne, UTIs, and some STDs, can cause unwanted changes in tooth color. While cutting out these medications is often not possible, being aware of the side effects can help you identify the reasons behind yellow or brownish teeth. If this is a serious concern, a physician may be able to recommend alternative medicines.

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Use Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is one of the latest crazes in natural health communities -- many people swear by its ability to whiten teeth naturally. It cannot bleach teeth darkened from other causes, but it can help remove stains. Some dentists and scientists warn against regular brushing and scrubbing with charcoal because of its abrasiveness, so use it infrequently and with caution.

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Make Your Own Toothpaste

Creating your own toothpaste is a great alternative to popular whitening toothpaste, which often don't work and may contain unsavory ingredients. Charcoal, baking soda, and even hydrogen peroxide make great ingredients in homemade whitening toothpaste. Oil pulling, the action of swishing coconut oil in the mouth to remove plaque and whiten teeth, is another alternative. While its effectiveness is not scientifically proven, it's apparent natural whitening ability (in addition to its potential for drawing toxins from the body) has boosted its popularity. However, oil pulling is no substitute for brushing and flossing, as toothbrushes have the slightly abrasive quality that removes plaque, and floss can reach hidden spots.

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Choose the Right Toothpaste

If you use store-bought toothpaste, remember the abrasive quality of some brands can wear away enamel and expose dentin, which not only causes a yellow color but also seriously harms teeth, and enamel does not regrow. Ingredients such as stannous fluoride contain molecules that can stick to the teeth and stain them. Although not damaging to teeth, SLS or sodium lauryl sulfate is detrimental to gum health.

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Brush with Baking Soda

Baking soda is a key ingredient in homemade and natural toothpaste. It is mildly abrasive and amphoteric, which means it can react with the plaque to neutralize acidity and remove it from the surface of teeth. Both using baking soda as a paste on its own, and choosing toothpaste that contains it as an ingredient can produce this benefit.

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Eat More Fruit

Though some fruits can stain the teeth, many can actually help prevent or diminish stains. Pineapple contains bromelain, which removes stains. Strawberries and apples have malic acid, a natural teeth whitener. It is best to avoid over-consumption of foods that are highly acidic however, such as lemons, as these can weaken tooth enamel.

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White Teeth Aren't Necessarily Healthier

While much of the populace strives for the blindingly white movie star smile, tooth color does not have a direct correlation to tooth health. Yellowish dentin lies beneath the slightly translucent enamel, so less white teeth can mean your enamel is thin or translucent but doesn't signify poor dental health. Excessive whitening using bleaches, however, is bad for the teeth. In other words, a person with good dietary, brushing, and flossing practices who has slightly yellowed teeth may have just as healthy -- or even healthier -- teeth than someone with a bright white grin.

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