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10 All-Natural Ways To Strengthen Your Teeth & Whiten Your Smile

Wellness

When you were growing up, I'm thinking it's pretty safe to assume that you were taught to brush and floss your teeth after every meal. Now that you're grown, be real—do you still do that? After each and every meal? While we're on the subject, do you also brush for no less than two minutes? Each and every time?


I did some digging around and it would appear that only 44 percent of men and 37 percent of women actually brush at least twice a day and 30 percent of us floss every day. This means there are millions out of us out here who are on the way to having weak teeth, dingy enamel and stank breath (if we don't have these things already). And let's not even get into how many of us don't see the dentist as much as we should (word on the street is it's 1 out of every 3 three who skip out on annual visits).

Once our big girl teeth come in, we're not going to get another set. That's why it's imperative that we're as proactive about caring for our biters. Yes, this should include brushing, flossing and taking that semi-dreadful visit to the dentist every year. But it also includes doing some things at home that will help to make our teeth stronger and whiter too.

10 All-Natural Teeth Whitening & Strengthening Tips

1.Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide

Not all of us have sparkling white teeth. Not because we don't take good care of them, but because they aren't a part of our genetic make-up. But if the enamel on your teeth is dingier than normal, it could be due to consuming lots of coffee and soda, eating too much sugar, breathing through your mouth instead of your nose (dry mouth leads to more bacteria), long-term antibiotic use and aging.

A way to get your teeth back bright again? Brushing them with a mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. The baking soda is effective because the grittiness of it serves as a kind of tooth exfoliant. Also, the bicarbonate that's in the soda helps to balance out the acids that can sometimes cause oral bacteria to thrive, ultimately leading to gingivitis and bad breath. Hydrogen peroxide whitens teeth due to its ability to penetrate past your teeth's enamel so that it can lighten the discoloration that keeps them from gleaming.

Here's a heads up—I know for a fact that the combo works really well. But because it's also pretty abrasive on teeth, it's best to only brush with this kind of paste no more than a couple of times a week. Otherwise, eventually, you could wear some of your enamel down. And enamel isn't something you can simply "get back".

2.Teeth Strengthening Foods

All of us want to have healthy teeth, but not all of us know what the signs of those are. When your teeth are strong and white—your gums won't bleed (including when you brush them), your breath will be fresh (which is why you should floss after every meal), your teeth won't shift, your gums won't recede and your tongue will be a healthy shade of pink (make sure to brush your tongue, by the way!).

No matter what you may put on your teeth, it's still important that you take care of them from the inside out. One of the best ways to do that is to consume foods that are proven to keep your teeth nice and strong. Ones that are high in calcium (like cheese and yogurt), high in magnesium (like leafy greens and pears), full of live probiotic cultures (like sauerkraut and kefir) and loaded with antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial (like garlic), along with bone broth and butter.

Speaking of butter, it is loaded with vitamins A, vitamin D, and vitamin K2. Some people love it so much when it comes to taking care of their teeth that they even brush with it (pastured, cultured butter is best)!

3.DIY Mouthwash

Alcohol, fluoride, sodium saccharin, sodium lauryl sulfate and cetylpyridinium chloride are just five of the ingredients that are listed on the label of a lot of commercial mouthwash brands. What do they all have in common? They're toxic.

Deciding to make your own mouthwash so that you're able to control the kind of ingredients that are in it is one good reason to do it. Another is because, when you put ingredients in it like calcium carbonate and concentrated trace minerals liquid powder, not only can they help to remineralize your teeth (which is great if your teeth are showing the beginning signs of tooth decay), it can help to whiten your teeth too. You can try a really great DIY mouthwash recipe here.

4.Strawberries

Strawberries taste great (especially when they are in season which is April through June)! So great that it's kind of a trip how many nutritional benefits they contain. Eating a fresh bowl of strawberries a couple of times a week provides you with lots of antioxidants, potassium, and fiber. Strawberries also have the ability to do everything from improving the health of your heart and fighting precancerous cells to strengthening your eyes, giving your immune system a boost and reducing your blood pressure.

Know what else strawberries can do? Whiten your teeth! Although strawberries are really red in color, they contain a tooth-whitening enzyme called malic acid. It, plus the seeds that are on the strawberries, help to basically exfoliate the stains off of your teeth.

The best way to use strawberries is to mush 1-2 of them and a half teaspoon of baking soda to it. Then brush your teeth like normal, making sure to rinse thoroughly when you're done. It's effective but try not to do this more than once a week; the acid and the baking soda could eventually become too strong for your teeth if you do it more than that.

5.Green Tea

Green tea is loaded with antioxidants, polyphenols (a compound that reduces body inflammation) and EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate), which is a compound that fights off disease. That's not all. The amino acid L-theanine that's in the tea helps to improve your brain function, the caffeine that's in it can increase your metabolism and burn fat and some studies even reveal that green tea can boost longevity.

The crystalline compound known as catechins that's also in green tea is great for oral health. That's because it kills the kind of bacteria that causes the flu and streptococcus mutans—a bacteria that results in tooth decay and cavities. So yeah, drink up.

6.Phosphorus

Phosphorus is the kind of mineral that a lot of us don't give much thought to, but it's very essential to our overall health and well-being. It assists with bone growth, eliminates toxins, reduces fatigue, helps to prevent arthritis, repairs cells, balances hormones and supports tooth enamel too.

You can take phosphorus as a supplement. But unless you've got an illness, probably the best way to get this mineral into your system is to consume foods that contain a good amount of it. Some of those include mushrooms, quinoa, oatmeal, yogurt, salmon, cheese, tuna, potatoes (with the skin on), cheese and even (cooked) waffles.

7.Oil Pulling

If you've never done a little oil pulling before, try it sometime. Out of all of the things that I shared, I can definitely vouch for how clean this process will make your teeth feel! Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic medicine practice that consists of putting a little coconut, sesame or even sunflower oil into your mouth and swishing it around for about 10-15 minutes before spitting it out. It works so well because these kinds of oils have the ability to remove plaque and toxins without damaging your teeth in the process.

Out of all the oils you can try, organic coconut oil is my preference, thanks to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are in it. Just make sure to NOT spit the oil out into your sink (it could clog it up over time; use your trash can instead) and that you rinse thoroughly with warm water and brush your teeth immediately following the oil pulling process. That will get rid of any oil residue that's left behind.

8.Orange Peels

The next time you decide to peel an orange, rather than throwing its skin away, eat it. No, seriously! There's plenty of research to support that orange (and lemon) peels contain a flavonoid called hesperidin that will strengthen your immune system, help your body to digest food quicker and easier, protect your respiratory system, increase weight loss and yep, you guessed it—improve your oral health.

First, chewing down on orange peels will whiten your teeth and freshen your breath. As a bonus, it can also decrease teeth sensitivity over time too. Just always keep in mind that due to the high acidic content that are in the peels, you should only do this 1-2 times a week and you should also rinse your mouth out with water right after you do it. Otherwise, you could eventually end up weakening the enamel that's on your teeth.

9.Clove Oil

Do your entire body a favor and, the next time you're at Wal-Mart (or you're perusing Amazon), cop a couple of bottles of clove oil. It's got quite a bit of manganese oil in it (30 percent of your reference daily intake). This is relevant because manganese is a mineral that regulates blood sugar levels, fights PMS symptoms, balances the thyroid, boosts vitamin absorption and even helps to prevent epileptic seizures (which usually come on, in part, by a low level of manganese in one's system).

As far as your teeth and gums go, manganese also helps to keep your teeth healthy and strong. Plus, its potent antibacterial properties are one of the best ways to kill the bacteria that cause gum disease. Also, if you've got a toothache or even a cavity that you can't get immediately treated by your dentist, nothing is quite as soothing as clove oil. It's strong (and that's a major understatement), but I've used it before to relieve pain and it provides an almost immediate numbing sensation that helped me to get an uninterrupted night of sleep. (If you've ever had a toothache before, you know just how much of a blessing that is!)

10. Kissing

A kiss from a great kisser is like nothing else on this earth! And while most of us like to focus on the physical sensation and emotional connection that it provides, let's talk about another thing that is happening every time we share a smooch—all of the spit that is going back and forth.

Since our mouths are, hands down, the dirtiest part of our bodies, that's something to think about before you let someone put their tongue down your throat (just sayin'). But once you know your partner's oral hygiene is on the up and up, their extra saliva getting into your mouth will actually help to kill bacteria, wash away debris and raise calcium, fluoride and phosphate ions while producing disease-fighting bacteria that keeps gingivitis at bay.

Pretty crazy, huh? Yet just one more reason to pucker up, just as soon as you can!

Featured image by Getty Images.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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