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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. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and surveys reveal that one of the first things that people notice about others is their smile. Whiter, brighter teeth are the result of more than just regular brushing. The food and beverage choices you make impact the wattage of your smile too.

Heroes in the crusade for whiter smiles include dairy and meat products (especially cheeses, milk, and chicken) and nuts. These foods are high in protein and calcium, which is thought to help protect tooth enamel. Calcium is particularly important for building strong bones and teeth, meaning youngsters derive extra benefits from its consumption. Other non-animal-derived heroes are crunchy fruits and vegetables such as apples, watermelon, pears, celery, and peppers. The chewing required to consume these foods stimulates saliva, which washes away food particles that can be the root cause of decay in teeth. Though the fruits in this list can be high in sugar, the large amount of water they contain lessens the effect of the sugars on the teeth. Acidic fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes and citrus, should be eaten with other foods to lessen the negative effects of the acid they contain.

The best beverage choice for a whiter smile is — no surprise here — water. Water, fluoridated water in particular, contains no sugar, can help rinse food particles from teeth, and has a plethora of other health benefits. Milk and unsweetened tea are also good choices. A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago found a link between higher consumption of unsweetened black tea and less plaque build-up. Researchers believe that polyphenols, compounds found in black and green teas, have anti-bacterial properties that can combat bacteria growth in the mouth that can lead to different oral diseases.

The arch-villain in the quest for a Hollywood smile is — also no surprise here — sugar. Foods and beverages high in sugar like candy, cookies, heavily processed foods, coffee and tea with additives, etc can lead to tooth and gum damage and decay. Habitual, continual consumption of sugar (such as sipping Mountain Dew all day) constantly exposes teeth to sugar and the tooth-attacking acids they create. This habit and beverage choice can accelerate tooth decay and gum disease. An alternative is to either forgo these sugary beverages or to choose sugar substitutes or sugar-free products. Sugar substitutes are readily available, as are sugar-free products. Just look at the nutrition label before you buy and don’t forget to brush after eating.