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Can My Diet Help My Smile?

How to choose foods that help your teeth stay bright, white, and healthy.

Q: I know coffee stains my teeth, but are there any foods that will help keep them looking white and healthy? 

A: Regular brushing and flossing are your best bets for keeping your teeth healthy. But yes, certain foods can keep your smile looking bright by contributing to your overall oral health.

For instance, foods that increase saliva production help wash food off your teeth as well as neutralize the acids produced by foods as you chew them -- acids that can erode tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay. Those foods include sugar-free gum and drinks, cheese, and milk.

Preventing gum disease is also crucial for keeping your teeth healthy and your smile beautiful. Fish and flaxseed are both rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which prevent inflammation and may help protect against gum disease.

Foods to avoid, by the way, include sugary drinks and snacks (the sugar promotes bacteria that increase acids that can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities); some starchy foods such as rice, potatoes, and pasta (which also raise acid levels in the mouth); and, yes, coffee, tea, and red wine, which can stain teeth. Choose water and sugar-free drinks as often as you can -- they help wash acid-producing food from your mouth.

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