MOL

Iowa

Hard cheese, crunchy veg and citrus fruits could be the key to white teeth, according to one expert.

Most 'white teeth' diets focus on avoiding foods red wine, curry and coffee which stain the teeth, said Dr Anthony Zybutz, from Harley Street's TDC Implant Centre.

But its equally important to choose foods that actively work to clean the teeth and keep them sparking, he advised.

The desire for pearly white teeth is certainly not a modern phenomenon, he said.

He added: 'While celebrity culture has no doubt fuelled people's fascination with the perfect, sparkling smile, the origins of this most sought-after look go much further back than our current obsession with the Hollywood grin.

'The likes of Simon Cowell and Kim Kardashian may be famous the world over for their white teeth, but they certainly aren't the first to obsess about a pure white smile.'

In the 21st century, there are a myriad of products all promising to turn stained teeth back to gleaming white, but thousands of years ago, people were achieving the same look purely by brushing and eating the right foods, he said.

'There were no whitening gels or bleaches during the time of the Egyptians', he added.

'But that didn't stop the civilisation known for worshipping beauty wanting sparkling teeth.

'Pharaohs 4,000 years ago are known to have combined ground pumice stone with vinegar to create a paste in an effort to restore the natural colour.'

If pumice stone and vinegar sounds unpleasant, the Romans had an even more unusual technique.

Dr Zybutz continued: 'The Romans also developed their own techniques, sometimes using goats' milk, but more adventurously, often gargling with urine. There was a logic to that idea though, because the ammonia created a bleaching effect.

'Fast-forward to the eighteenth century, and it was barbers who decided to offer teeth whitening – by filing them down and soaking them in nitric acid. It worked perfectly and practically instantaneously, though it later turned out that it was also disintegrating the enamel.'

So in 2014, if patients want whiter teeth, but want to keep hold of their enamel, what can they do?

Setting aside the various treatments available – which all come with their merits and disadvantages – the best place to start is with diet, Dr Zybutz advised.

Here, Dr Zybutz looks at the best foods to encourage a beaming smile...

EATING YOUR WAY TO WHITER TEETH

There are three key factors that patients need to keep in mind when it comes to the white teeth diet: chewing, saliva production, and staining.

The diet isn't just about avoiding red wine and coffee, but rather choosing the kinds of food that actively work to clean and protect your teeth.

CHEWING

Fruit and vegetables that need chewing act like a toothbrush during meals, scrubbing the surface of the teeth as people chew.

Apples, carrots, cauliflower, green beans and celery are all great crunchy choices.

Hard cheeses are also effective, because the chewing action removes other food particles, and prevents plaque build-up.

These types of food also massage the gums too, stimulating blood flow that keeps them healthy.

SALIVA

Increasing saliva flow helps keep teeth whiter, so citrus fruits like grapefruits, lime, lemon and oranges help rinse your teeth naturally as you eat.

Strawberries are particularly good in this respect, because they contain malic acid, an enzyme that encourages saliva production.

GUM INFLAMMATION AND DECAY

There are some other foods that also help promote white teeth.

Vegetables that are high in fibre such as broccoli are good for keeping down inflammation of the gums, while interestingly, pineapple is the only food that contains bromelain, a naturally occurring compound with cleansing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Calcium contributes to keeping teeth white, so dairy products including milk and yogurts are also worth including in a good dental diet. Their lactic acid will help prevent decay, too.

And of course, whatever a patient chooses to eat, there are huge benefits to drinking plenty of water.

Along with being one of the most important things we consume, it's also effective for washing away all the potentially staining food before it has chance to make a mark.

STAINS

This is what most patients think of when talking about diets that promote white teeth.

This of course means that red wine, coffee, tea, cola and sports drinks are definitely going to stain the teeth and should be avoided where possible.

There are plenty of other foods that stain too: fruits like blackberries, pomegranates and blueberries, curry sauces and soy sauce, and inevitably sweets and anything coloured artificially.

To put it simply, if it would stain your shirt, it will do the same to your teeth.

But before you encourage patients to reach for the Chardonnay instead of the Merlot, the truth is that white wine isn't great for teeth colour either, because the tannins and acids will stain too.

BEING REALISTIC

There will be few patients willing or able to stick completely rigidly to a diet made up purely of these 'low-stain' foods, and there's no reason why they should have to.

As with much of the best health advice, everything in moderation, and the occasional glass of red isn't a problem.

What is more important is that a white teeth diet is combined with good overall dental hygiene.

Thorough brushing, rinsing after meals and regular check-ups all play a vital part, and diet certainly shouldn't be seen as the solution on its own.