Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Oral Care

Font Size
A
A
A

Foods and Habits That Stain Your Teeth

By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS

If your smile isn't as bright as you'd like, think about what you put in your mouth. You can stain your teeth if you smoke or if you eat or drink certain things, and it's more likely to happen as you age.

But once you know what to eat -- and what to avoid -- you can keep your pearly whites bright and shiny.

Recommended Related to Oral Health

When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist?

Q. How old should my child be before I make his first dental appointment? A. You should take him in by the time he celebrates his first birthday. First visits are mostly about getting kids used to the dentist's chair and educating parents about how to care for baby's teeth. If your child has transitioned from the bottle to cup and doesn't snack or drink in the middle of the night, you get a one-year pass, until age 2. That's when the standard every-six-month dental visit recommendation...

Read the When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist? article > >

What Causes Stains?

"Tooth enamel [changes] as you get older," says Sally Cram, DDS. "Like a piece of pottery that gets fine lines [over time], the stain gets into the little cracks and crevices."

You need to watch out for these three things:

  • Chromogens -- compounds with strong pigments that cling to enamel
  • Tannins -- plant-based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to teeth
  • Acids -- these make tooth enamel softer and rougher, so it's easier for stains to set in

Coffee, Tea, or Neither?

You probably think the main cause of darkened teeth in the U.S. is a drink you brew for yourself in the morning. After all, more than half of Americans drink coffee every day. You can tell from its color that it's high in chromogens, and it's very acidic. Together, these factors help turn white teeth yellow over time.

But it's not the worst culprit. That would be tea, which nearly half your fellow Americans drink every day. Not only is it full of acid, it also has tannins.

"Tea causes teeth to stain much worse than coffee," says Mark S. Wolff, DDS, PhD, professor at the New York University College of Dentistry. "Iced tea or brewed tea -- it doesn't matter."

If you have coffee or tea only after Sunday dinner, you're less likely to have stained teeth than if you drink three cups every morning.

"To really have that big of an effect, it's really the frequency of intake that's going to make the stain," Cram says.

 

What's In Your Glass?

Red wine can be good for your health, but it's not ideal for a bright smile. Wolff says three factors work against it: It's very acidic, it has lots of tannins, and -- as its deep purple color suggests -- it's high in chromogens, which land on your teeth and stick to them quickly Wolff says.        

White wine has both acid and, despite its color, some tannins. It doesn't have its own color to stain teeth, but the tannins and acids make your teeth fair game for other types of stains. They're more likely to be stained by a tomato, a blueberry, or a strawberry, Wolff says.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Never
(0)
Good
(1-3)
Better
(4-6)
Best
(7)

You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

close up of woman sticking out tongue
Sores, discoloration, bumps and more.
toothbrushes
10 secrets to a brighter smile.
 
Veneer smile
Before and after.
Woman checking her bite in mirror
Why dental care is important.
 

Woman dissatisfied with granola bar
Slideshow
woman with jaw pain
Quiz
 
eroded front teeth
Slideshow
brushing teeth
Video
 

Variety shades of tea
Slideshow
mouth and dental instruments
Article
 
Closeup of a happy young guy brushing his teeth
Tool
womans smile
Video