Before you rush into getting your teeth professionally whitened, it's important to understand what kinds of food and drink are turning those pearly whites into dull yellows.
Otherwise, you could find yourself again searching for treatment in just a few months—if you don't do anything about undesirable eating and drinking habits. Below you'll find a list of food and beverages that cause tooth discoloration:
1. Pasta sauce: because of their acidity, bright red hue and tendency to cling to the teeth, tomatoes used in pasta sauce can leave your teeth vulnerable to staining. Plus, many well-known brands are packed full of sugar!
Dine on some dark green veggies, such as broccoli, kale and spinach, beforehand to create a protective film over the teeth. The film will help ward off tomatoes' staining effect, so spring for a green salad as an appetizer.
2. Wine: this acidic beverage containing chromogens and tannins is notorious for staining teeth. But it's not just red; white wine, too, promotes staining. In a study conducted recently at the New York University School of Dentistry, teeth exposed to tea were stained more severely if they previously had been exposed to white wine. So, if you’re fond of following up that glass of Chardonnay with a cup of Earl Grey, you may be giving your teeth a double whammy.
Aside from just cutting down (which nobody wants to hear), brushing your teeth before, not after, is a good way to help protect the enamel and slow down the staining process.
3. Curry: this commercially prepared mixture of spices makes a modern-day curry—but its deep pigmentation can yellow teeth over time. Due to its high staining factor, curry is something you may want to limit in your diet. Whenever you dine on curry-spiced food, try to mix in some fresh fruits and vegetables that prevent stains, such as apples, carrots, cauliflower and celery.
4. Tea: like wine, the ordinary black tea most people drink is rich in stain-promoting tannins. Dentists say it’s a bigger stainer than coffee, which is chromogen-rich but low in tannins. Herbal, green, and white teas are less likely to stain than black tea; however, this is not a universal rule, so it's worth checking this tea-stain guide for more info!
5. Balsamic vinegar: this healthy salad dressing can also darken your teeth. The reason? Its dark natural color, of course. It also sticks to your teeth, which can lead to staining if it's not quickly brushed away. But you don't have to give up on this light salad dressing. Whenever you have a salad with balsamic vinegar, be sure to include a crunchy lettuce; chewing the lettuce will help clean the staining balsamic vinegar from your teeth as you eat.
6. Cola: acidic and chromogen-rich, cola can cause significant staining. But even light-colored soft drinks are sufficiently acidic to promote staining of teeth by other foods and beverages. The best remedy? Just stay clear—particularly given its high sugar content.
7. Berries: this category of fruit provides a lot of health benefits, particularly thanks to its antioxidant properties, but they also have the potential to stain your teeth. The deep hue in blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries, in particular, can cause staining, regardless of whether they are eaten whole, drunk as juice or processed as jelly and jam. Don't let them linger in your mouth for too long, and drink water to help combat their staining effect.
8. Sweets: hard candies, chewing gum, popsicles, and other sweets often contain teeth-staining coloring agents. If your tongue turns an odd color, dentists say, there’s a good chance that your teeth will be affected, too. But unless they are consumed regularly, these sweets probably play a minor role in teeth staining.
Tips to Minimize Stained Teeth
Dentists offer several suggestions:
- Use a straw: Sipping beverages through a straw is believed to help keep teeth-staining beverages away from the teeth—the front teeth, in particular. No, you’re probably not eager to use a straw for coffee or wine. But it shouldn’t be too much trouble to use a straw for cola, juices, and iced tea. And if you're concerned about single-use plastics, check out these cool reusable and biodegradable straws.
- Swallow promptly: Swallowing stain-causing foods and beverages quickly is also believed to help protect teeth from stains. Obviously, it’s important to chew foods thoroughly before swallowing. And gulping can, of course, cause choking. But don’t retain things in your mouth for long periods of time. In other words, savor flavors—but not for too long. “There’s no question that the quicker you drink something the lower the exposure [to stain-promoting substances],” says Debra Glassman, DDS, a dentist in private practice in New York City.
- Swish with water: It’s not always convenient to brush your teeth after having something to eat or drink. Even when it is, it might be better not to: dental enamel is highly vulnerable to abrasion from tooth brushing for up to 30 minutes after the consumption of acidic food or beverages. So it’s safer simply to swish with water and brush later, once the enamel has had a chance to re-harden. Another way to remove stain-causing substances without brushing, Howell says, is to chew sugarless gum after eating or drinking.
Booking Teeth Whitening Treatment with Dental Departures
New York University School of Dentistry. Website accessed: 5 January 2021. https://dental.nyu.edu/
Levy, Lauren. The Best Reusable Straw Is Made of Silicone and Burns Into Biodegradable Ash. The Strategist. 12 July 2018. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-reusable-straws.html
Dental Health and Tooth Discoloration. WebMD. 9 October 2019. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/tooth-discoloration
Xue, Faith. 7 Tricks To Keep Red Wine From Staining Your Teeth. Byrdie. 2 January 2020. https://www.byrdie.com/how-to-prevent-red-wine-stains-teeth
Does herbal Tea Stain? Which Ones, How to Avoid it. Tea How. Website accessed: 5 January 2021. https://teahow.com/does-herbal-tea-stain-teeth-which-ones-why-how-to-avoid-it/