Maintaining a dazzling set of pearly whites well into your golden years is no mean feat. Staining tends to worsen with age and many older people have exposed roots that make peroxide-based bleaching far too painful to even contemplate.
Taking care of ageing teeth
Luckily, there's still a lot you can do to minimise discolouration. While stopping smoking and limiting staining drinks such as black tea, coffee, cola and red wine, as well as foods like curry, beetroot and blueberries is key, certain foods actually help brighten yellowing gnashers.
“You really can eat your way to whiter teeth,” says Dr Peta Leigh, teeth whitening expert at Harley Street dental practice Elleven.
To give you an idea about what you should add to your shopping basket, here are 10 foods with secret teeth-whitening powers.
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This summer favourite is bursting with malic acid, a natural enamel-whitener. Malic acid also stimulates saliva production. Saliva acts like a mouthwash, cleaning the teeth to keep them free from bacteria, as well as staining drinks and foods that may linger in the mouth, so the more saliva you produce, the whiter your smile should be.
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Crunchy, fibrous vegetables like celery and carrots are dubbed detergent foods because they clean and whiten the teeth as you chew. The high fibre content is mildly abrasive and scrubs away at the pearlies while you munch, helping to remove surface stains. These foods also promote saliva production, offering a teeth-whitening double whammy.
Apples contain high levels of malic acid to subtly whiten teeth, and their crunchy fibrousness helps remove surface staining. Sweeter apples are best kept to a minimum in your diet if you're worried about tooth decay. The tarter varieties – think Granny Smith or Braeburn – work best as they are lower in damaging sugars.
Likewise, eating sesame seeds can help scrape away surface staining on your teeth. As you chew the seeds, the tough fibre casing rubs against the enamel, lifting off the stains. Just remember to have a tooth pick flosser handy as the little blighters tend to get stuck between the teeth, which can be rather annoying.
Seeds of goodness – how seeds can help your health
Cheese and other dairy products like milk and yoghurt are a rich source of enamel-strengthening calcium and whitening lactic acid.
While it is an acid, lactic acid actually helps protect the teeth from decay. Eating cheese boosts saliva production too, which is a bonus if you want cleaner, whiter teeth.
While it’s fairly high in enamel-eroding fructose and fruit acids, pineapple contains a powerful enzyme called bromelain, which can help remove superficial staining. Bromelain also helps reduce the build-up of plaque.
If you want to enjoy the pineapple's teeth-whitening benefits whilst minimising the risk of cavities, rinse with alcohol-free mouthwash after you chow down on the tropical fruit.
More exotic fruit that can benefit your health
Papaya is jam-packed with an enzyme called papain, which like bromelaine helps remove surface staining.
If you can, opt for unripe green papaya, which is a popular ingredient in south-east Asian cuisine and delicious shredded in a salad. Papain is more concentrated in unripe green papaya, which contains less enamel-eroding sugar than the sweet ripe fruit.
The health benefits of tropical fruits
If somebody asked you to name an effective teeth-whitening food, dark chocolate is unlikely to spring to mind. But cocoa is high in a compound called theobromine, which has been shown to protect the enamel from staining. To reap the benefits without damaging your teeth, opt for low sugar dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa solids.
The health benefits of chocolate
While there is no solid scientific evidence it works, many people swear by the teeth-whitening effects of coconut oil pulling.
Instead of eating the oil, you basically slosh a teaspoon's-worth around in your mouth like mouthwash for about 20 minutes per day to clean the teeth and thwart the growth of damaging bacteria in the mouth.
Discover more about the health benefits of coconut oil
Sugar-free chewing gum
It's not a food as such – you don't even swallow the stuff, after all – but sugar-free chewing gum is worth including in our round-up because it is fantastic for stimulating saliva production.
A dry mouth won't do your teeth any favours and will exacerbate staining, so anything that can help increase the flow of saliva is beneficial.
Learn more about caring for ageing teeth