If you’re like me, mornings require a mug (or two) of coffee. While it’s up in the air whether or not the habit is good for health, it’s pretty certain that drinking dark liquid doesn’t do much for your looks. In fact, when it comes to teeth, a cup of joe may be your pearly whites’ worst enemy.
A bright, sparkly smile is sabotaged not just by a heavy java habit, but by sipping or snacking on any intensely colored drink or food. Teas, red wine, colas, sports drinks, berries, sauces and sweets—all are rich in pigments that stain teeth over time. Acidity also plays a part. Nosh on enough harsh stuff and enamel literally wears away, throwing yellowing into the mix.
But before you resolve to go groggy or hop on a neutral-colored-foods-only diet, there are some things you can do to hold on to a gleaming grin. Best of all, they’re natural, meaning you don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals or extravagant costs.
The original whitener
Long before foaming, minty toothpastes, baking soda (a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate) was used to brush away debris, freshen breath and keep teeth shiny and white. Make a simple paste by mixing together a half-teaspoon with a half-teaspoon of water. Brush for a minute or two, then rinse. Because baking soda is mildly abrasive, you’ll want to use this method every other day for a few weeks while whitening, then only once or twice a week for maintenance.
For less abrasive brightening, try a toothpowder such as Eco-Dent ExtraBrite Tooth Whitener, which blends baking soda with essential oils and other natural ingredients. Just dip a damp toothbrush in a small amount of this concentrated powder and brush as usual for cleaning, gum soothing and whitening effects. It’s fluoride free, and you get 200 brushes from a bottle.
Dentists often recommend xylitol, a naturally occurring plant alcohol, for its healthy-mouth benefits. In the Xlear Spry White Whitening Kit, one of the very few natural whitening systems out there, it cools and refreshes while stain particles are prodded away by a powerful gel. Unlike other one-hour whiteners, this one is safe for sensitive types.
Whitening gums are everywhere, but the kind you get at the grocery checkout may be tainted with artificial ingredients—chemical sweeteners, colors, even preservatives. Instead, try chewing your way to whiter teeth with all-natural peelu gum, made from plant fibers from a Middle Eastern tree. But don’t be too disappointed when you don’t see dazzling white immediately. All whitening gums work to prevent staining and darkening, rather than reversing the damage already done.
Speaking of prevention, using a whitening toothpaste every day is probably the best way to keep stains at bay. There are endless natural and fluoride-free options, but one you might not have tried yet is salt toothpaste. Salt, like baking soda, has “exfoliating” effects, but it’s also good for upping your saliva production, which keeps stain-causing particles from settling on teeth. Weleda makes a pepperminty version that cleans without a salty sting.
Don’t have days—or even hours—to wait for a whiter smile? Freshen up fast with Dr. Nick’s White Now! Whitening Kit. A quick “tray” treatment, it’s made with 94% natural ingredients and leads to visibly whiter teeth in just 10 minutes. If you’re looking for professional effects without spending a fortune on stick-on strips, this kit’s your best bet.
Do you have a natural tooth-whitening secret? Share it with us in the comments below!
The Beauty Boss blogs are compiled by our staff editors Rebecca Chopin and Katie Kaleita, who work closely with the Vitacost.com beauty department experts to bring you the most relevant, up-to-date information on natural beauty and anti-aging tips and trends.