Common Foods and Drinks that Result in Stained Teeth By Thomas G. Zarger Jr., D.D.S. on July 28, 2014

A family with bright, clean smilesOne of the defining characteristics of a beautiful smile is its color. After all, who wouldn’t love to have a spotless, white smile? Unfortunately, tooth discoloration is a common problem that leaves many people’s smiles faded or yellowed. Cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening are certainly able to help, but the best way to preserve a bright smile is to prevent discoloration in the first place. To help our Knoxville patients keep their teeth as white as possible, we offer the following information on foods and drinks that are commonly responsible for discoloration.

How Do Foods Stain Teeth?

There are two distinct reasons why food or drink may result in discoloration. The first and most direct reason is that food particles can be absorbed by enamel, staining it from within. This is especially true of foods that are vividly colored, as they are more likely to be visible from within enamel, as well as foods that are acidic, as the acid is more likely to etch its way into the tooth.

Acidic foods are doubly dangerous for teeth, in fact, as they can also erode the enamel. If enough erosion occurs, the tooth’s underlying dentin tissue may be revealed, which is a naturally darker color. This is the second reason for discoloration, and it is often accompanied with heightened tooth sensitivity and a greater risk of decay. If your tooth has had its enamel eroded from food and drink, you may need a restoration to cover it for protection.

Top Foods and Drinks that Stain Teeth

Many foods and drinks have the potential to stain teeth, but some are definitely more notorious for their ability to discolor a smile. These include:

  • Tea: Between its acidity, tannins, and color, tea is commonly responsible for stains. Black tea is more likely to stain than green tea, so if you’re enthusiastic about your tea and your smile, opt for the latter.
  • Coffee: Coffee is another beverage that can easily leave stains if you’re not careful. Adding milk can help lighten the color and thus the stains, and provides helpful nutrients that keep tooth tissues strong.
  • Red wine: Red wine is another drink that has acidity, tannins, and a color that can affect the appearance of white teeth.
  • Sugary drinks: Most sugary drinks, whether sports drinks or fruit juices, have a surprisingly high acidity and a vivid color that can leave its mark on teeth.
  • Sauces: Many traditional sauces, from tomato-based pasta sauces to curries and soy sauce, are common culprits of discoloration.
  • Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and similar fruits that are brightly colored contain polyphenols, which are healthy but stain-inducing compounds.
  • Vinegar: Balsamic vinegar and vinegar-based dressings can cause discoloration. Thankfully, the green vegetables often served with balsamic counteract its staining effects by forming a thin protective film over teeth.
  • Candies: Many brightly colored candies are known for turning a tongue virtually any color. But if it’s staining your tongue, it also has the potential to stain teeth.

How to Keep Your Teeth Stain Free

Other than visiting your dentist for teeth whitening treatment, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect the shade of your smile:

  • Drink water: Water will help wash away food and drink particles while neutralizing any acids on teeth. Keep a glass of water with you for every meal.
  • Eat vegetables: Crunchy vegetables such as celery, broccoli, and carrots help scrub your teeth as you eat. They also promote saliva production, which acts as an additional defense against food particles and the stains they leave behind.
  • Brush and floss: Regular hygiene is necessary for bright, healthy teeth. Stains cannot embed themselves within enamel if they’re not allowed to linger.
  • Use a straw: Using a straw with drinks is a great way to avoid having your teeth come in contact with them.

Want to Learn More?

We’re happy to help you care for your teeth, cosmetically or otherwise. If you want more information on discoloration and what can be done about it, contact our office at your convenience. If you are looking to remove any discoloration that is already present, we will gladly schedule you for a consultation or treatment. 

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Dr. Thomas G. Zarger, Jr., DDS Family Dentistry in Knoxville

Our practice has provided skilled and compassionate dentistry for patients in the Knoxville, TN, community for over 30 years. Dr. Zarger is a member of:

  • American Dental Association
  • Second District Dental Society
  • Tennessee Dental Association
  • American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry

We strive to make care convenient and affordable to all patients and accept CareCredit financing to help reduce the cost of treatment. Schedule your consultation today online, or by calling (865) 693-7631.

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