8 Foods & Drinks That Will Ruin Your Smile

Regular dental checkups, combined with daily home care, such as brushing and flossing twice a day, are part of a good oral care routine. However, in order to keep your teeth strong, healthy and white, you should also avoid those foods and drinks that are likely to stain and discolor your teeth. Some are obvious and well known; others are not. But before we tell you about the worst culprits for teeth staining, here’s what you should know about tooth discoloration:

There are three main types of tooth discoloration: extrinsic, intrinsic and age-related.

Extrinsic discoloration is superficial and occurs on the enamel. Smoking, coffe, tee, wine, soda and other drinks or foods can discolor the surface of your teeth.

Intrinsic discoloration, on the other hand, affects the layer underneath the enamel – also known as dentin. This type of discoloration happens for many non food-related reasons: antibiotics, chemotherapy, excessive intake of flouride, mild tooth trauma, etc.

Age-related discoloration is a combination of extrinsic and instrinsic discoloration. As you age, the surface of the enamel wears away, revealing the yellow tissue below the surface, hence the appearance of yellow teeth. Additionally, over the years your teeth accumulate more stains and tartar.

The focus of this article will be on the foods and drinks that lead to extrinsic discoloration. Extrinsic stains are mainly caused by chromogens, the chemical compounds that give certain foods and drinks their strong color, organic substances called tannins – present in tea, coffee and wine – and also acids, which can wear down your enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to becoming stained.

Here are the top 8 culprits:

#1 Coffee

Sorry, coffee junkies, here’s bad news for you: coffe is one of the biggest stainers out there! Coffee contains a natural compound known as tannins, which causes tooth staining. Teeth are porous, which means that they naturally absorb the foods and liquids we chew and sip. Thus, the darkness of coffee can easily stain your teeth, especially if it’s black coffee. Plus, because it’s acidic, it alters the pH balance of the mouth, making your teeth vulnerable to other acidic foods that could damage your enamel.

For the millions of us who drink coffee every day and can’t just kick the coffee habit, there’s still hope: you can prevent some staining by adding a splash of milk to your coffee, which will not only lighten it up, but additionally it will give you an added kick of calcium and vitamin D, both needed to keep your teeth strong. Also drinking a glass of water after every coffee can go a long way, as doing so you will rinse away harmful tannins and acids from your mouth.

#2 Tea

You might think tea would be a better option than coffee. As a matter of fact, many people switch from coffee to tea, hoping that it will prevent their teeth from becoming stained. Unfortunately, it will not, as tea also contains tannins. The good news is that some varieties are better than others. Green, white and herbal teas will stain your teeth less than dark teas like English Breakfast and Earl Grey, simply because they’re lighter in color.

While tea is less acidic and therefore not as bad for your teeth as coffee, this does not mean that it is good for them. Light-colored teas can still wear away your enamel and discolor your teeth. Just like with coffee, consider adding some milk to your tea as it may help counteract the staining. Also, try to buy higher-quality teas, as they usually have lower tannin levels.

#3 Wine

Wine if full of natural antioxidants and, in moderation, it can even be heart healthy. Unfortunately, it’s less good for your smile, as it also contains tannins and acids. What may come as a surprise is that white wine can be as bad for your teeth as red wine. While it’s lighter in color and thus doesn’t lead to discoloration, due to its high level of acidity it is responsible for making your teeth more susceptible to becoming stained.

The good news is that recent research suggests that wine may actually help fight cavities and gum disease [1]. So if you are unwilling to give up wine, simply swish water around your mouth after drinking in order to rinse away the harmful tannins and acids. As an additional measure, you can always try to pair your glass of wine with cheese to counteract the acid and balance the pH level in your mouth.

#4 Soda and other Carbonated Drinks

Sodas and carbonated drinks are bad for your health on many different levels, but they are also bad for your pearly whites, as they contain acids and/or dyes that can stain your teeth. On top of this, these beverages are generally packed with sugar, giving oral bacteria plenty to feed off of and promoting tooth decay.

While you can avoid the staining by choosing light-colored drinks, you will still be exposed to the sugar or the acid. So if you really want to drink soda, at least sip it through a straw – if possible a paper or reusable one – to limit the beverage’s contact with your teeth. Additionally, try to rinse your mouth with water as soon as your are finished.

#5 Citrus Fruits

Many of us love eating citrus fuits: they’re refreshing, healthy and low fat. However, while they’re packed with nutrients, they are also very acidic. Consuming highly acidic fruits and drinks on a regular basis can eventually wear away the enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to decay and increasing the chances of stains setting in.

But don’t worry, you can still enjoy the health benefits of citrus fruits with the proper aftercare. Since acid is especially harmful when you let it linger on your teeth too long, try to drink a glass of water shortly after eating citrus fruits in order to dilute the acids in your mouth. Another option is to eat some cheese to balance the pH level in your mouth.

#6 Tomato, Curry & Soy Sauce

As you might have expected, deeply-colored sauces like tomato, curry and soy sauces are some of the worst culprits for teeth staining.

Tomatoes are one of nature’s superfoods. While packed with nutrients, they are also bright red and acidic, making them perfect for tooth discoloration. So the tomato sauce on your pasta will for sure make your tummy very happy; your teeth probably not so much.

If tomato sauce is bad for your teeth, curry sauce is just as bad. Its pigmentation is so strong that it’s no wonder this blend of spices can yellow your teeth over time.

Soy sauce goes great with sushi, but it’s not so good for your smile. It is so concentrated that it is more likely to stain your teeth than any other dark-colored sauce or liquid. So taking it easy on soy sauce will not only benefit your teeth, but also your blood pressure, as soy sauce is high in sodium.

To avoid stains, switch to light-colored, creamy sauces and rinse your mouth soon after consuming tomato, curry or soy sauce.

#7 Berries

Berries, like tomatoes, are great superfoods. But as healthy as they may be, blueberries, blackberries and pomegranates are among the worst tooth stain offenders. Unlike some of the examples mentioned earlier, the stains berries produce aren’t generally a result of tannins or acids, but rather chromogens. Their pigmentation adheres to the enamel, discoloring your teeth.

Their staining properties are not enough of a reason to cut berries out of your diet, though, as they contain health-benefitting antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. So instead of banishing them from your diet, just make sure to rinse your mouth out after you’ve eaten them to lift the pigmentation from your teeth. Alternatively, try drinking a glass of milk or eating a slice of cheese to keep the acid in your mouth in check.

#8 High-Sugar Foods

No surprise here: sugar is really bad for your teeth and promotes tooth decay. This has been drilled into us since we were kids. Whether your favorites sweets are baked confections, chocolates, popsicles, hard candies or jelly beans, these are packed with tremendous amounts of sugar.

The oral ecosystem is filled with hundreds of bacteria. Some of these bacteria are beneficial, others not so much. When harmful bacteria and sugar get together, they generate acids that can severly damage tooth enamel. Not only that, some sweets can also change your tongue’s color, which means they can also stain your teeth.

Your best defense is to moderate your consumption of sugary foods and practice good oral hygiene.

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