The very first thing we notice about people, and what people notice about us and base their first impression on, is often a smile. It can influence the success of personal and business relationships, which should convince us to monitor what we eat and drink to avoid a less desirable smile. Although our six-month dental visits can treat our cavities and give us a Colgate smile for a hefty price, there are other everyday ways to boost our dental health without expensive whitening kits or strips.

Our foods and dietary habits affect our mouth’s ability to stop bacteria penetration that contributes to plaque, and even cavities. Ongoing studies have found that antioxidants and other essential nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and other everyday foods boost the body’s immunity while helping promote good oral health. To optimize your oral health, eat these six foods, and keep in mind how you eat them is just as important.

1. Eat Cheese

The phrase “say cheese” is usually a cue for us to show our pearly whites, but it can also protect our teeth by fighting off bacteria. The high calcium content and lactic acid found in cheese and other dairy products act to strengthen the enamel and prevent decay. Fortifying the enamel will protect the dentin that sits behind it, which helps preserve the whiteness of our teeth.

A 2013 study published in the journal General Dentistry found cheese raised the pH to nearly perfect, freshly-brushed levels in the mouths of participants who didn’t brush their teeth for 48 hours. The researchers conclude the protein, calcium, and phosphorus content in cheese helps promote anti-cavity properties. Overall, the higher the pH level is above 5.5, the lower the chance of developing cavities.

2. Drink Black Coffee

Those who can’t live with their morning cup of Joe will rejoice at the fact that coffee can actually be good for your dental health. A recent study published in the Journal of Periodontology found higher coffee consumption may have a protective effect against periodontal health by reducing the number of teeth with periodontal bone loss. The researchers suspect both caffeinated and decaf versions of the beverage are major dietary sources of antioxidants, and other anti-inflammatory factors. The power of these antioxidants lies in how the body absorbs and utilizes them.

In particular, drinking black coffee has been shown to protect your teeth from decay and actually helps fight plaque. Another recent study published in the journal Letters in Applied Microbiology found the moderate consumption of black coffee could protect your teeth from decay and actually helps fight plaque. However, the coffee tested was black, strong, unsweetened, and applied in moderate amounts.

3. Eat Gummy Bears

Gummy bears may actually be a treat for kids and adults that promotes oral health. The habitual consumption of xylitol, one of the main ingredients in the pre-packaged snacks, can actually reduce mutans streptococci (MS) levels, or S. mutans/sobrinus, but has no effect on Lactobacillus spp. A 2008 study published in BMC Oral Health found children who ate gummy bears three times a day had less plaque and bacteria on their teeth than their counterparts. The candy reduced S. mutans/sobrinus levels but not Lactobacillus spp. The results suggest a xylitol gummy bear snack may be an alternative to xylitol chewing gum for dental cavity prevention.

4. Drink Red Wine

It’s time to raise your glass and cheers to good dental health. Drinking a glass of red wine, specifically a young Pinot Noir, or a non-alcoholic version of the wine, can effectively get rid of dental disease-causing bacteria, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Researchers noted the ethanol in wine is known to be antimicrobial, which is believed to cause the results. However, the researchers found even the non-alcoholic wine had effects in reducing bacteria, which suggests other wine components, apart from ethanol, had antimicrobial properties that counteracted the effects of this bacteria.

5. Eat Steak

Order the big, juicy steak for dinner for healthy teeth. The American Dental Association endorses the consumption of red meat because it contains phosphorus, which protects tooth enamel and bone. Moreover, chewing the steak helps strengthen the jaw muscles. A 2013 study published in the journal PLOS ONE found the more you chew, the stronger and cleaner your teeth.

6. Drink Green And/Or Black Tea

The consumption of tea can help battle bacteria, acid, and even glucosyltransferase — an enzyme that enables dental plaque to stick to teeth — due to its high levels of polyphenols. Tea is able to absorb fluoride, which can help protect against tooth erosion. So you may want to fill your cup of tea with tap water to get the most of the mineral. A 2013 study published in the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin found drinking three to four cups a day could help reduce inflammation and prevent the adhesion and growth of bacteria in the mouth. Therefore, this chain reaction protects against tooth loss.

Add these six foods to your diet for outstanding oral health.