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Image: Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles
Danny Moloshok  /  Reuters
Eat your way to teeth like Scarlett Johansson's.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/5/2011 9:44:17 AM ET 2011-08-05T13:44:17

Stars like Jessica Alba and Scarlett Johansson need killer smiles for their livelihood, but for us mere mortals, a whiter, brighter smile can do wonders for our appearance and self-confidence. Plus, surveys reveal that one of the first things that people notice about others is their smile, and as that old saw goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Dr. Timothy Chase, a 15-year veteran of cosmetic dentistry in New York City says white teeth and healthy gums can take 10 years off your appearance. And while professional dental products work best for whitening,  what you eat and don’t eat can play a huge role in how white your teeth are.  It seems certain fruits, vegetables and other foods can aid in your quest for whiter teeth. Here’s what you should know about the white smile diet:

The crunch factor

Apples, cauliflower, celery and carrots work to whiten because they function as an abrasive scrub for teeth. These foods are nature’s toothbrush. They also stimulate the production of saliva, which helps keep plaque from forming. Stain sticks to plaque.

Orange ya glad?

The acid in oranges and pineapples may whiten and brighten the surface of the teeth. The acid also contains enzymes that kill bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath. “Saliva is the body’s wonder fluid,” says Chase, and eating juicy citrus increases saliva production that washes away foods that stain like coffee, soda and red wine.

Strawberry patch

Strawberries contain an enzyme called malic acid that can whiten teeth. Munch berries several times a week to naturally whiten chompers.

Pass the cheese, please

Dairy products such as yogurt, milk and hard cheeses like cheddar contain lactic acid, which may help protect teeth against decay.  Researchers think proteins in yogurt may bind to teeth and prevent them from attack by harmful acids that cause cavities. Dairy is also loaded with calcium, which guards and strengthens bone that holds teeth in place. Plus, chewing hard cheese creates saliva that helps remove food particles that stain.

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Nix these

You can also try to avoid stain-causing foods.  Any food that causes a stubborn laundry stain can discolor teeth, too.  If you look at a tooth under a microscope, it looks like a kitchen sponge with many little nooks, crannies and holes. When stain-causing foods and beverages get stuck in those nooks and crannies, especially over time, dark stains develop. While we hear a lot about coffee, tea and red wine, soda is actually one of the worst offenders. It not only contains acids that open up those nooks but then stains them with cola color.

While you're at it, be sure to go easy on other teeth-staining food and drink, such as coffee, tea, blueberries, red wine, soy sauce and tobacco.

“It only takes seven minutes for destruction to start, but you can stop it by rinsing with plain water for seven seconds until you can brush and remove plaque,” says Dr. Joe Kravitz, a Washington D.C. dentist and author of “Dirty Mouth.”  If you can’t get to a toothbrush or drink water, chew sugarless gum to remove stain food causing particles.

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