Most people are aware of how food affects the body, but what about the mouth? Whether you’re an avid drinker of coffee and tea, or maybe red wine is your drink of choice, you might be looking to whiten your teeth. When it comes to oral care, in-office treatments can take a large chunk out of your wallet, and drugstore treatments aren’t always reliable. It’s always best to go natural, so here are the problems and natural solutions to your stained teeth.

Causes of Stained Teeth

There are three compounds that make your teeth more susceptible to stains: chromogens, tannins and acids. Chromogens are compounds made of strong pigments that cling to your tooth enamel. Tannins are plant-based compounds that allow stains to stick to your teeth more easily. Acids make tooth enamel softer and rougher, so it’s easier for stains to set (however, the acids in fruits like apples and pineapples are not as bad as those in berries). These compounds are found in drinks like coffee, tea, wine, soda and sports drinks, as well as fruits like berries, tomatoes and pomegranates.

Don’t think you have to give up these foods or beverages in order to have that perfect smile. A good habit to keep in order to prevent tooth stains is to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth after enjoying these refreshments. Products with whitening agents can aid in your oral health. Using a straw to drink can also help, as the straw directs liquids to the roof of your mouth, bypassing your teeth.

Smoking and chewing tobacco can also cause stains, which is another reason to quit.

Natural Solutions to Whiter Teeth

The most tried and true at-home method of teeth whitening is to use a baking soda paste. The paste can be made by mixing about one tablespoon of baking soda with two tablespoons of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, then stirring it into a paste. Be sure the paste is not gritty. Brush the paste onto your teeth and let sit for about one minute, then rinse. It is important to limit the use of your paste to two or three times a week, as excessive use of baking soda, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar can break down your enamel over time and cause sensitivity in your teeth.

Using apple cider vinegar as a mouthwash has also been known to have whitening effects on teeth overtime.

Coconut oil contains lauric acid, an agent that breaks down bacteria. Because of this agent, the oil has stain-reducing properties that help remove some of the surface bacteria that causes yellow teeth. Swish a tablespoon around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes and you may see a change overtime. It’s safe to use everyday, too.

Of course the most natural solution to whiten your teeth comes from eating your fruits and vegetables. Both the health and the appearance of your teeth can be improved by chomping on crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples, celery and carrots. The texture of these foods works to scrub away surface stains on your teeth, as well as remove excess foods and bacteria from your mouth.

While some of these solutions may take some time to see results, they are guaranteed to be safer, healthier and less expensive than professional or over-the-counter treatments.