Everyone loves a bright, white smile. Today that should be easier than ever to achieve, given the widespread awareness of good dental health. These days, you know it’s important to look after your teeth and gums but do you know which food stains your teeth? Your dentist will have mentioned that you need to brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You will also be advised to floss (or use an interdental brush) daily to remove food and plaque. Deep down, you will probably realise how important regular dental check-ups are for early problem detection, too. And, of course, you may realise how vital it is to act promptly if dental treatments are needed.
The information above should help to provide a fool proof path in your quest for perfect pearly whites. However, it isn’t that easy. The reason? You still need to eat and drink. However, did you know that the foods and drinks you enjoy could be why you are struggling to keep your teeth gleaming? So, follow our guidelines to help you combat food stains on your teeth and consider which drinks can be just as harmful.
The different types of teeth staining
Broadly speaking, there are three different types of teeth staining: intrinsic, extrinsic and age-related.
Intrinsic staining happens if the dentine (the inner structure of your tooth) becomes discoloured. There are a number of factors that can cause dentine to darken or become more yellow. These include:
- Tooth trauma
- The use of tetracycline antibiotics during pregnancy or early childhood
- Too much exposure to fluoride during early childhood
- The tooth development disorder condition dentinogenesis imperfecta.
Extrinsic staining takes place when the enamel (the outer layer of the tooth) becomes discoloured. This type of staining is often caused by certain food and drink. Smoking can also cause extrinsic staining.
Age-related staining is the result of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Our teeth experience wear and tear too. Unfortunately, dentine naturally yellows as we age. Over time, our tooth enamel also gets thinner, which allows this yellower dentine to show through. Lastly, any physical knocks or chips to our teeth (more common as we age) can also cause discolouration.
Why do certain foods stain my teeth?
Foods and drinks, which are high in chromogens, all have the potential to stain your teeth. Chromogens are pigment-producing substances that can stick to your teeth’s enamel. As a guide, almost any food or drink that can stain clothes can also stain your teeth. As you’d expect, dark-coloured foods and beverages tend to be the biggest culprits.
Tannin is another substance that makes teeth more susceptible to staining. A bitter compound often found in drinks such as wine and tea, tannin helps chromogens attach themselves to tooth enamel.
You also need to be aware of the acid effect. Acidic foods and beverages can erode tooth enamel. This also makes it easier for pigments to latch onto your teeth and result in food and drink staining, and discolouration.
Which is the most common teeth-staining foods and drinks?
Here is our list of some of the most common foods and drinks that can stain your teeth:
Tea and coffee
Not many of us can get through the day without any, but tea and coffee both contain tannins. Research suggests that adding milk might help to counteract the staining. Unfortunately, green teen isn’t much better, as this can stain teeth grey!
It’s bad news if you’re mad about Merlot. Like tea and coffee, red wine also contains tannins and is one of the most common causes of tooth staining. Unfortunately, switching to white wine isn’t the solution, as it’s actually more acidic than red.
Drinks that are filled with sugar are just as bad as sugar-laden snacks. Carbonated sodas (even sugar-free versions) are very acidic. And anything dark, such as cola, is doubly damaging where stains are concerned.
This might seem like a healthy option thanks to the vitamins within. However, most fruit juices are also very acidic, which can compromise your tooth enamel. Again, darker juices, such as blueberry, grape and cranberry, are the worst offenders.
Packed full with spices with powerful colouring, it’s not surprising that curry can cause extensive teeth discolouration and food stains. If you really can’t bear to forego your biryani, add some fruit and vegetables that can help prevent staining. These include carrots, apples, celery and cauliflower.
Balsalmic vinegar is a hugely popular condiment these days – and a great salad dressing – but it’s not very tooth-friendly. It’s not only naturally dark, but it also sticks to your teeth. So staining is very likely indeed, unless it’s quickly brushed away.
They might be a fabulous way to consume your recommended five a day, but berries also stain your teeth. Darker pigmented fruits such as blueberries and blackberries are especially problematic.
Need we say more? Beetroots are an excellent source of fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium. Some studies suggest that drinking beetroot juice may even help to lower blood pressure. But if you’ve seen what it does to your fingers/clothes, you’ll understand what it can do to your teeth.
What can I do to prevent teeth staining?
It is very difficult to completely avoid every type of food and beverage that can stain your teeth. But it is possible to limit consumption. In fact, small changes can make a big difference. Why not substitute a cup of coffee with something less staining, such as flavoured hot water? Rinsing your mouth thoroughly with water after eating or drinking foods that stain can also help.
Using a straw to consume cold drinks such as fruit juices, sodas and colas can also help to limit stain damage. Crunchy fruit and vegetables are useful, natural stain removers. This is because they help to boost saliva production and ‘scrub’ your teeth. Consuming a small cube of cheese after eating can also help to neutralise the acids that cause stains.
Above all, make sure you visit your dentist and hygienist regularly. We’ll be happy to dispense advice about how to keep your smile brilliantly white. If you’d like more information or to make an appointment, please call our practice .