Coffee, red wine, soft drinks, smoking… Most of us know these are things to avoid if you want a bright white smile. But did you know that the food you’re piling onto your plate could also be leaving your teeth dull, stained and discoloured?
From berries to balsamic vinegar and your Friday night biryani, some foods pack an unwanted pigment punch – and, surprisingly, it’s not just junk food that’s the problem. To discover the top ten foods and drinks that stain teeth, plus some dentist-approved tips to minimise the damage, read on!
- Blueberries and blackberries
Packed with health-promoting antioxidants they may be, but blueberries and blackberries can leave your pearly whites anything but dazzling. Highly pigmented, these berries are notorious for staining tooth enamel, so it’s a good idea to rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after consuming. (Other dark fruits like raspberries, cherries and pomegranates can also cause discolouration.)
- Coffee and tea
Can’t start your day without a long black, or go an afternoon without an endless stream of English Breakfast? Unfortunately, your teeth might be paying the price. Tea and coffee contain astringent compounds called tannins – and these can cause significant teeth discolouration. To mitigate this, try adding milk, reducing the number of cups consumed, or even sipping your caffeinated beverage through a straw to reduce contact with your enamel.
- Red wine
With dark pigment, pigment-binding tannins and acid to make your enamel more porous, red wine creates the perfect stain-inducing storm. Unlike more insidious staining agents, it causes significant discolouration straight away, with red wine drinkers often sporting a reddish/purple smile after just a glass or two of wine. While this is only temporary, over time red wine drinkers’ teeth tend to take on a telltale grey or brown tinge.
However, there are some steps you can take to reduce red wine’s impacts. Keep a glass of water nearby and sip regularly (this will also help with the hangover), and snack as you drink. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, crunchy, fibre-rich foods like carrot sticks can help clean teeth, stimulate saliva and neutralise acid. Alongside dairy foods, they also help to restore lost minerals – so, somebody pass us that cheese platter!
If you’re pairing that Merlot with a Madras? You’re in even more trouble, as curry is another key cause of teeth staining. The vibrant spices used in Indian and Thai curries can cause yellowing of the teeth, so make sure you pair your meal with some crunchy veg and rinse your mouth with water after eating. You could also follow your meal with a glass of milk, which will also help cool things down if you went overboard with the chilli.
You may be what you eat, but we’ve established that drinks can also cause significant tooth discolouration. And, alongside red wine, tea and coffee, cola is another key culprit. However, unlike resveratrol-rich red wine and polyphenol-packed black tea, cola has zero health benefits. You’d struggle to find any dentist who would recommend it, so consider eliminating it from your diet, or reducing your consumption to special occasions only! (And, if you must drink it, make sure you do so through a (reusable) straw.)
- Balsamic vinegar
Sticky, darkly coloured and acidic, balsamic vinegar not only causes discolouration, it can also contribute to enamel erosion. This erosion in turn makes the teeth more susceptible to staining, so it’s a bit of a vicious cycle. To combat any unwanted side effects, rinse with water after eating dishes with balsamic.
You might also be tempted to brush your teeth straight after consuming, but experts recommend waiting for a minimum of 30 minutes to protect enamel softened by acid. This applies to all acidic foods and drinks.
If you’ve ever dropped beetroot on your clothing, you’ll have seen how stubborn a mark it leaves behind. While incredibly nutritious, the deeply pigmented root vegetable is also a common cause of teeth staining – even more so if consumed in concentrated juice form.
- Tomato sauce
Tomato sauce or ketchup is another acidic, teeth-staining culprit that can be found lurking in most Aussie pantries (or fridges – but let’s not get into that argument here). After eating, try chewing on sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow and help neutralise acids.
- Soy sauce
Like balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce, soy sauce is another kitchen staple known to leave its mark on your smile. If you can’t keep it out of your dishes (and why would you, it’s delicious!), make sure you wash it down with a big ol’ glass of water.
- Fruit juice
Acidic and packed with sugar, fruit juice doesn’t just stain your teeth, it’s an all-round oral nightmare, according to dentists. The acid is damaging to the enamel, which makes the teeth more susceptible to staining, while sugar contributes to tooth decay. So, if you can’t go past an icy OJ? Enjoy it with a meal, drink through a reusable straw, and swill your mouth with water when you’re done.
Some other things that stain teeth…
Food and drink aren’t the only causes of teeth staining, either. Smoking is a leading cause of yellowing, thanks to the nicotine and tar contained in cigarettes. Medications, medical treatments such as chemotherapy, ageing, genetics and dental hygiene can also have an impact on the colour of your teeth1.
So, how can you whiten stained teeth?
To reduce and prevent future teeth staining, good oral hygiene is essential. This starts with daily flossing and twice-daily brushing. For a superior clean, we recommend using a sonic electric toothbrush, which uses gentle vibrations to send fluid into the most hard-to-reach corners of your mouth.
And for fast and effective stain removal? Nothing beats the convenience and affordability of an at-home LED teeth whitening kit! For the ultimate teeth whitening experience from the comfort of your couch, try our Advanced Kit. With a comfy mouthguard, blue LED setting and mess-free pens pre-loaded with dental-grade whitening gel, it whitens teeth by up to 12 shades in 5 days.
Visit the Advanced Whitening store to shop our teeth whitening kits, toothpastes and dental accessories for a brighter, whiter, healthier smile.
1. Cleveland Clinic. Tooth Discolouration. Reviewed April 2020.