Everything in moderation, right? The health reason behind this statement reminds you that too much of something isn’t always a good thing, and your teeth agree with this sentiment! It’s easy to think about unhealthy foods which fall into this category because they may lack proper nutrition for our bodies, but if you are after a bright, white smile, understanding what foods are the leading culprits behind teeth staining is worth factoring in. A handful of delicious, antioxidant packed blueberries or brightly colored, sugar-drenched candy have radically different effects on our bodies as a whole, but similar impacts on the color of our teeth, along with many other foods.
Some teeth stains are caused simply by the pigment in what we are consuming, like dye in candy, other times it’s compounds which occur naturally in the things we love to eat and drink. Tannic acid, or tannins, can be found in plant matter; they are compounds that allow particles to bond to the tooth surface and are present in things like tea, coffee, grapes and blueberries.
Then there are the acidic foods, like lemons and oranges, which taste delicious but over-time wear at the surface layer of the tooth, the enamel. When enamel thins, dentin, the middle layer of the tooth, begins to show through. Dentin has a naturally yellowish hue so can cause a stained appearance. Regular and proper teeth cleaning can help minimize extrinsic staining on your enamel and will help minimize the particles that make their way to the dentin and stain that, too. Once extrinsic stains make it to the dentin, they’re called intrinsic stains and can amplify the yellow hue that’s already present.
The moment of truth: the top 10 foods that are to blame for those pesky teeth stains.
Blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and any other brightly colored berries are going to leave some pigment behind on your teeth. Berries carry great health benefits, though, so don’t eliminate them. They are antioxidant-rich, fiber-filled, brain-boosting, sugar-regulating little powerhouses, so eat them for overall health, but try rinsing or brushing your teeth afterward to help minimize staining.
The one exception here is strawberries, which actually contain a tooth-whitening enzyme called malic acid. So if you are worried about a whiter smile, this is one berry that you can partake in without worry.
For all other berries, try adding them to a smoothie that you can enjoy through a straw. This will direct the beverage to the back of your mouth instead of coming in contact with your teeth. Plus, you can add other fruits, veggies, seeds, milks, etc. into your smoothie for extra nutrients!
All fruits are wonderfully healthy for your body but the acidic nature of some is harsh on your tooth's enamel. The lower the pH level, the more acidic and the more erosion of enamel. Definitely don’t suck on a lemon or lime, as they’re the most acidic fruit and can lead to this erosion, but be mindful of others like pineapples, oranges, cranberries and grapefruit. While those few seem rather obvious, some like apples, grapes and peaches fall toward the acidic level, too, so be mindful.
Some acidic fruits, like oranges and lemons, contain high amounts of vitamin C, which is necessary for your health. However, mixing in cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, mangos or avocados from time-to-time will help protect your teeth from the harsh side effects of these fruit acids while still maintaining your vitamin C needs.
Rinse your mouth with water after enjoying acidic fruit or drink a glass of milk to help neutralize the pH level in your mouth.
It’s spaghetti night at home—yum! But you glance at that cute, happy toddler across the room and suddenly don’t feel as excited about this quick, easy, delicious dinner anymore because you know you will have a laundry mess which includes lots of pre-treatment spray. Tomato sauce stains. (And ketchup, too!). Plain and simple. If that’s what it does to your clothes, it must also be staining your teeth.
Try to limit the frequency with which you eat sauce or drink milk with it to lower the pH in your mouth as tomatoes are not only deeply pigmented, but acidic, too. Most importantly, just laugh when the saucy noodles are all over your kids’ head and buy lots of pre-treatment stain remover.
Nothing about soda is good for your body, including your oral health, between the carbonation, high sugar content, and in some cases dark pigment, soda can be an enemy to a white smile. When sugar interacts with the bacteria in your mouth, it develops an acidic nature that wears away at your tooth's enamel. Remember, when your enamel wears, intrinsic staining is more probable and visible.
Sports drinks remove the problem of carbonation but contain lots of sugar and artificial colors, both which affect the color of your teeth and general oral health. That bright orange sports drink may be providing your body with replenishing electrolytes, but the food coloring equals tooth coloring
There is no helpful tip here other than to skip over the soda and sports drinks and drink regular ole H₂O. If you need extra replenishment, there are many water brands that produce electrolyte-infused water without any of the unnecessary additives.
What’s not to love about indulging in delicious dishes from around-the-world? Well, there’s one thing: teeth stains. Curry powder is a common spice used in Indian cuisine, and while it makes for a great meal, its naturally bright pigment can leave some pigmentation on your teeth.
The simple solution is to not eat it on a regular basis, but, when you do, just brush your teeth after so the pigment doesn’t linger in your mouth.
All hail the BEET! Beets are a superfood meaning they contain such a plethora of necessary vitamins and minerals for our bodies. This vegetable can be enjoyed in its raw form, as a powder that can be added to foods and drinks, or as juice. No matter how you consume it, its color is RED. Deep, deep red. Like, stain-your-fingers-a-little kind of red. Therefore, beets will stain your teeth.
This is where it might be worth the tooth staining risk, however, because of the benefits of eating beets regularly. A simple solution is to mix up your veggies to counteract the beet’s strong staining ability. Raw, crunchy veggies like broccoli and carrots can help “scrub” your teeth a bit while you chew. Win, win.
Balsamic vinegar is a healthy option to dress a salad, but it is dark, acidic, and it has a tacky consistency. So, the negatives: anything that is acidic in nature erodes enamel over time, tacky textures cling to teeth, and dark color makes its presence obvious.
With that said, don’t ditch it for an unhealthier option, just be mindful. Don’t use too much; if it’s on a salad, add lots of lettuce and crunchy veggies to help “scrub” the teeth while you chew; and drink lots of water during and after to keep as much off your teeth as possible. And when in doubt, follow with a good tooth brushing session.
Candy is a simple joy in life. Sometimes you just need that bump of sugar, but know that it isn’t doing your teeth any favors. Just like soda and sports drinks, it’s sugar central and artificially colored. The sugar can lead to cavities (simply put: it’s decay which is dark in color) and the coloring will adhere to your teeth.
Pick wisely and brush your teeth after!
Wine contains tannic acid. So white or red they’ll stain your teeth. You’re probably thinking that white wine is white, so how could it stain? The thing about tannic acid is that it isn’t what stains your teeth, but it creates a bond for particles to adhere to the tooth surface. Red wine will certainly stain more than white wine because of its dark pigment, but if you’re drinking white wine with a tomato sauce-based dinner, the tannic acid is allowing that sauce to adhere in a more amplified way.
If you’re someone who enjoys a glass of wine, maybe choose white over red and don’t eat highly pigmented foods while drinking wine to avoid additional staining.
Save the best for last, right? Ok, maybe saying “the best” paints an incorrect picture so let’s go with “the most expected”! Tea and coffee are raging culprits for teeth staining. Both contain large quantities of tannic acid and tend to have deeper pigmentation. These beverages are also consumed on a regular basis—maybe even considered part of daily routine—so teeth stains build daily.
A few ways to reduce staining would be to drink dark roast coffee over light roast. The longer the coffee bean is roasted, the more tannic acid that is burned off. Another lesser evil, so to speak, would be cold brew coffee and teas that are made without using heat so less tannins are released. Lastly, add some milk to your beverage of choice to dilute the potency of the pigment and acid.
Proper oral hygiene will take you a long way. No matter what your diet consists of, brush your teeth at least two times daily for two minutes each time. If you eat something heavily pigmented, sugary, or acidic be sure to drink plenty of water or milk to flush your mouth. Brush your teeth after partaking in highly pigmented foods if you can, or chew sugar-free gum to amplify saliva production that will help dilute what particles remain in your mouth. Daily flossing is also essential because it will help remove any built-up plaque between the teeth that the toothbrush couldn’t quite wiggle free.
Bi-annual dental cleanings are necessary to remove the tooth stains that daily care couldn’t quite tackle. However, adding a whitening gel to your daily routine will help carry you over more effectively between appointments.
Never hesitate to chat with your dentist about tooth-staining prone foods and drinks and how it’s best to care for your teeth in your individual situation. Proper oral hygiene and a bright smile will make you feel so confident, so remember how foods can affect your teeth and try your best to combat tooth stains.