Health and Beauty

9 Foods You Must Avoid for Whiter Teeth

There are a lot of factors that could be involved in staining your teeth. Some of which you can’t control at all, such as genetics and aging. Intrinsic (or internal) stains can be cause by ingesting tetracycline or too much fluoride as a child, while your teeth are forming. Injury can also cause teeth to turn grey or black as the nerve dies. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about those kinds of stains, other than to talk to your dentist about professional whitening (bleaching) or bonding (such as veneers).

Extrinsic (external) stains are usually different, in that they can be avoided to some extent. They are typically caused by using tobacco (smoked or chewed), bad habits that encourage the buildup of plague and tartar or simply by the food and drinks that we choose and the manner in which we ingest them.

According to Barry Dale, D.M.D., a cosmetic dentist and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center, "Stained teeth are caused by a lot of the things we like: coffee, tea, colas, smoking, even the foods we eat. The obvious suggestion is to give up those things, but that's easier said than done for most people."

Darker colored food and drinks, such as blueberries and coffee are some of the obvious culprits. They contain intensely pigmented molecules (chromagens) that latch on to the enamel. In addition the chromagens have two partners-in-crime.

  1. A family of food compounds known as tannins increase the ability of chromagens to attach to enamel.
  2. Acidic food and drinks erode the enamel and soften your teeth, which also makes it easier for the chromagens to attach to your teeth.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are worried about dripping it on your white shirt, there’s a good chance it can stain your teeth.

But fear not, this doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating blueberry pie or drinking your favorite red wine. It simply means that if you know which foods are the culprits and you take steps to limit them and/or to modify the way that you eat them, you will be helping to brighten up those pearly whites.

WINE –Red wine is acidic and contains tannins, chromogens and polyphenols, which are all responsible for causing tooth stains. Although lighter colored wines are better, they still help to promote stains. In order to reduce staining, you might be tempted to brush your teeth after your evening glass of wine, but don’t! Doing so can actually cause more harm than good, as it can scratch the enamel on your teeth. Better to swish water or to chew sugarless gum.

COFFEE - Some of feel like we can’t survive without our morning cup o’ Joe, but coffee is one of the worst offenders when it comes to staining teeth. The blacker it is, the worse it stains. Also, for those who sip it over several hours are providing a near constant discoloring bath for their teeth. But if your caffeine addiction is stronger than your desire for white teeth, there are a couple of things you can do to lessen the staining effects of coffee. Lighten each cup with milk, which also provides you with Vitamin D and calcium – both of which can help to keep your teeth white. Rather than sipping it throughout the day, drink a cup, then brush your teeth or at lease swish with water. Chewing sugarless gum will help remove some of the residual coffee in a pinch as well.

TEA - Black teas are the worst, so it is best to drink the lighter green, white or herbal blended teas, which are actually good for your teeth. If you must drink black tea, do so with a straw, which limits how much of the tea actually has contact with your teeth. No matter which tea you decide to drink, you should that you pay attention to temperature extremes. Hot and cold temperatures will cause the tooth’s pores to open, which can help deteriorate enamel, causing stains that are more permanent.

SODA – Like other dark colored drinks, darker sodas, such as colas, cause staining. But they also dim your smile in another way. They are loaded with sugar and phosphoric, citric acids which wear away enamel and cause decay. Just like with tea most people enjoy their sodas cold, which again, opens the pores and promotes more permanent staining. No soda is the best policy, but if you must, switch to lighter or clear sodas and/or drink through a straw. As with coffee, sipping soda all day, makes matters worse. Better to drink one soda and then stop. No matter which soda you drink, or how you drink it; brushing, swishing with water or even gum, are again, good post-soda habits to pick up.

FRUIT JUICE – Dark juices, such as cranberry juice are the worst. White cranberry or other lighter colored juices contain less pigment, so they are better, but all fruit juices contain a lot of sugar, which is not good for teeth. Drinking through a straw and/or swishing with water is a great habit to start after any stain promoting drinks.

SAUCES - Soy, tomato, curry, and other deeply colored sauces can all cause staining. Soy and tomato sauces will stick to your teeth, allowing the dark pigments to cause deeper stains. Tomato and vinegar based sauces are very acidic and curry is known for its bright yellow color, which is beautiful, but not on your teeth. Limiting these sauces is the best policy, but it can also help to combine them with foods such as spinach to help protect the your teeth. Of course, it’s always best to brush after you eat to avoid stains.

BERRIES and BEETS – Beets and dark colored fruits such as pomegranates, cherries, blackberries, cranberries and of course blueberries can cause staining. They are, however, very good for your health, so rather than limiting them from your diet, just develop a habit of brushing or swishing with water after you eat them.

POPSICLES – These cool summertime treats pack a double-whammy as they are not only heavily laden with sugar, but they are cold, which opens the pores of the teeth. As we’ve learned, neither cold or sugar are good for your teeth. A good alternative is to eat frozen fruit. Bananas, strawberries and grapes are all delicious frozen. Of course, brushing and swishing are best! CANDY – Sugar, again, is never good for your teeth, but those candies that leave your mouth stained purple or blue are also going to promote teeth staining.

If you’re worried about having to eliminate these things from your diet, don’t be. As we’ve pointed out, brushing after these stain-promoting food and drinks is going to help the most (with the noted exception of the red wine). If you can’t or won’t brush, then swishing water is the next best choice. In a pinch chew some sugarless gum. These habits will not only help to diminish the effects of stain causing foods, but will also have the bonus of helping to freshen your breath.

You might also want to check out our article about 6 Tasty Foods That Whiten Teeth Naturally.


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