A bright smile not only looks great, it could improve your chances at landing a girlfriend. According to a recent study by Match.com, 71 percent of women say that they judge a man based on his teeth. Translation: Having a brilliant smile will actually help you be more attractive to women. “A smile can be very inviting—having a whiter smile is engaging and exciting,” says Beverly Hills-based dentist Arthur Glosman.
Dating isn’t the only place where whiter teeth play a key role. Kelton Research, an independent research firm, found that your smile might also contribute to securing a dream job. Results have shown applicants are 58 percent more likely to get a job offer and 53 percent more likely to be offered an increased salary if their teeth are white. The takeaway? A sparkling smile can make you stand out among a sea of applicants. “Having a whiter smile highlights personal self-image and leaves a memorable mark on the interview,” says Dr. Glosman.
Of course, there are the usual whitening methods: toothpaste, mouthwash, gums, and expensive professional treatments. There are also easy, everyday habits that can help brighten your smile. Here are 9 simple ways to make your teeth their whitest—and the habits you should break, too.
Use baking soda
Baking soda may be a multi-talented cleaner for your home, but not for teeth. This chemical compound is an abrasive, meaning that it will help remove stains, but it can also be harmful. After continued use, it can begin to wear away enamel, which will cause your teeth to darken.
Eat dark foods
There are some surprising foods and condiments that Manhattan-based dentist Dr. Debra Glassman puts on her “Do Not Eat” list. Avoid marinara sauce, blueberries, and soy sauce, she says, because foods with very dark pigmentation can cause staining.
Guzzle energy drinks
In addition to the usual staining suspects (coffee, tea, and red wine), stay away from energy drinks. The acid they contain can have the same eroding effects as eating citrus fruits, only your your teeth are bathing in it. Still want your pick-me-up? Drinking beverages through a straw can protect your teeth, Dr. Glassman suggests.
Swap out your toothbrush
A whiter smile could be as easy as throwing out your old toothbrush. According Dr. Glosman, “Replace a toothbrush every three months, or as soon as you see the majority of the bristles begin to bend and look worn down.” After the bristles are worn down, your toothbrush isn’t cleaning your teeth properly.
Brush your tongue
Brushing your tongue isn’t only about having fresh breath. Dr. Glassman says it can also help prevent staining. Your tongue accumulates bacteria, which can eventually lead to discoloration. Use a soft toothbrush and long strokes starting at the very back of the tongue, rinsing your brush after each stroke. This will help remove the bacteria on the brush without re-depositing it on your tongue.
Rinse with apple cider vinegar
While it isn’t as effective as other, more mainstream whitening treatments, it is a natural and organic way to maintain a healthy smile. Dr. Glassman recommends rinsing with two parts water to one part apple cider vinegar, and swishing the solution around for one minute.
Eat raw fruits and veggies
Eating fruits, vegetables, and other crunchy foods is good for your body and your teeth. Dr. Glosman says that eating nuts, raw carrots, apples, and cauliflower can help keep your teeth clean by removing surface stains and plaque that leads to cavities.
Use gel trays instead of strips
Experts are divided on the effectiveness of whitening strips. Dr. Glassman says she’s not a fan of strips because they don’t distribute the whitening paste evenly. Teeth are usually darkest near the gum line, where the strips can’t reach. Instead, she recommends using whitening gel trays.
Rinse with water after eating oranges
Although they’re a good go-to for vitamin C, citrus fruits, such as lemons and limes, contain acid that erodes tooth enamel. This can make teeth stain more easily. The fix? Make sure to rinse your mouth out with water immediately after eating these fruits to wash the destructive acid off your teeth.
Now that we’ve got your teeth whiter, here are 5 things that can do lasting damage to your mouth. Avoid them.