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Some foods can help brighten your smile

What you're eating could damage your smile, but other foods and beverages can help clean your teeth. If you experience persistent tooth stains, talk to your dentist about ways you can enhance your smile.

Certain foods and beverages can lead to surface staining. Coffee, dark sodas, red wine and blueberries all leave their mark quickly.

"While daily home care and regular professional cleanings are essential for maintaining healthy teeth and gums, certain foods can help remove stains from your teeth," said Dr. Marty Zase, president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. "Foods such as apples, pears, celery, carrots, cauliflower and cucumbers produce saliva which combines with the foods' natural fibers to naturally clean teeth and remove bacteria."

Drinking beverages from a straw helps food dyes avoid teeth altogether, and regular toothbrushing with baking soda, whitening toothpaste or a bleaching agent are also effective.

Brushing and flossing do remove most surface stains, but if stains prove to be stubborn, try a whitening system.

Bleaching products that alter the natural tooth color come in the form of gels, strips and in-office trays. They contain peroxide, which aids in removing intrinsic stains — the ones deep into the tooth — and extrinsic stains, which are on the tooth's surface. Whitening products that only remove surface stains do not contain bleach, and come primarily in the form of toothpastes.

There are numerous over-the-counter products and in-office treatments geared toward removing visible stains from teeth — making them appear and, in some cases, remain brighter.

Talk to your dentist about the options most suitable for you, your expectations and the costs involved.

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