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The 9 Golden Rules for White, Healthy Teeth

Not only do your teeth help you talk and chew, they can make or break your appearance. Here are 10 secrets for keeping your pearly whites in tip-top shape.

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Go on a white-teeth diet

If you’re quaffing red wine, coffee or black tea, expect the results to show up as not-so-pearly whites. According to the American Dental Association, the dark pigments called chromogens attach to the your white tooth enamel, creating stains. The tar and nicotine in tobacco will also leave behind brownish stains on your teeth. Brushing immediately after eating or drinking foods that stain teeth can help. If you want to whiten your teeth, talk to your dentist about the best at-home and in-office methods.

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Chuck your toothbrush…

…or change the head of your electric toothbrush at least every two to three months for healthy teeth. Otherwise, you’re just transferring bacteria to your mouth. According to Beverly Hills dentist Harold Katz, the best way to brush is by placing your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against your gums and gently moving it in a circular motion, rather than a back-and-forth motion. Grip the toothbrush like a pencil so you won’t scrub too hard, and make sure to avoid these other toothbrushing mistakes.

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Eat ‘detergent’ foods

Foods that are firm or crisp help clean teeth as they’re eaten. Great choices include apples, raw carrots, celery, and popcorn. According the the American Dental Association, chomping on these fiber-rich foods increases saliva production, and that helps protect teeth from decay. For best results, make “detergent” foods the final food you eat in your meal if you know you won’t be able to brush your teeth right after eating. Next time you’re in the grocery store, pick up one of the 7 foods that help whiten your teeth.

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Brush your teeth with baking soda once a week

Research has shown that brushing with baking soda helps remove stains and whiten your teeth. Use it just as you would toothpaste. Place a bit in your hand and mix with water to form a paste, then apply it to your toothbrush. You should also try one of these 10 natural, at-home teeth whitening tricks.

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Stay fresh

To check the freshness of your breath, lick your palm and smell it while it’s still wet. If you smell something, it’s time for a sugar-free breath mint. Shopping for mouthwash? Make sure it is alcohol-free, suggests Katz. Many over-the-counter mouthwashes contain alcohol, which can dry out the tissues in your mouth, making them more susceptible to bacteria. These are some of the myths about mouthwash you need to stop believing right now.

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Practice flossing with your eyes shut

If you can floss without having to guide your work with a mirror, you can floss in your car, at your desk, in bed, and before important meetings. Buy several packages of floss and keep them in your car, your desk, your purse, your briefcase, your nightstand. That way you’ll also have some handy if you need dental floss for one of these hacks that aren’t flossing your teeth.

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Brush twice a day for two minutes

That’s the advice of the American Dental Association. Ideally, one of those times is right before bed (to rid teeth of any plaque that’s built up over the day). And the other is in the morning, so that your mouth starts the day fresh and clean. During those two two-minute sessions, be sure to clean all sides of your teeth.

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Conceal with color

If you wear lipstick, choose one that will make your smile look brighter–such as blue-toned reds and pinks. “Blue tones help counteract yellow and make teeth look brighter,” says New York City makeup artist Jessica Liebeskind, founder of Vintage cosmetics. Steer clear of lipsticks that have gold or yellow undertones. They can make teeth look a little dingy.

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Medically reviewed by Steven Czekala, DDS, on September 01, 2019