Foods and Habits That Stain Your Teeth
If you've ever sucked on a lollipop and found that your tongue and teeth turned blue, you've seen the effects. Dentists suggest that you avoid brightly colored candy, ice pops, and sweetened drinks. Colored sports drinks aren't safe, either. Chug any one shade too often, Wolff says, and don't be surprised if it shows up on your choppers.
"Food coloring is a pretty aggressive coloring," Wolff says. "If you have exposed root surfaces, it loves that surface even more than white enamel.
Soft Drinks; Hard Truths
People who drink cola may notice their teeth turning yellow over time. That's because soda is very acidic, and dark cola contains chromogens.
Clear-soda drinkers also may get duller teeth because lemon-lime flavors contain acids, which make teeth prone to stains from other foods.
"It's like red wine vs. white wine," Wolff says. White wine makes your teeth easier to stain. So does clear soda. And all sodas have almost the same acid level whether they're dark, clear, regular, or diet.
Lemonade, which is high in citric acid, can open the door to stains. "After that exposure, any color you put on it will make a stain," Wolff says.
When Berries Bite Back
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are high in chromogens. You'll also find them in cherries and tomatoes. Grapes and pomegranates have them too along with tannins.
A good rule of thumb: Fruit that would stain your clothes will do the same thing to your teeth.
Tips to Keep Your Smile Bright
You won't have to give up coffee, red wine, or blueberries if you add one or more of these habits to your regular routine:
Brush right away. After a bowl of cereal with berries, brush your teeth. If you drink coffee at work, keep a toothbrush in your desk to use after your final cup . Use paste with a little whitening agent, Cram says.
Rinse your mouth. Can't brush? Swish water around in your mouth after you eat or drink. "Even water is better than leaving all that material behind," Wolff says.
Use a straw. Straws pull liquids inside your mouth, so the drink bypasses your smile. "It's not going all over your teeth," Cram says. "It's going on the roof of your mouth."
See the dentist. Going for cleanings helps to smooth the fine cracks in tooth enamel where color gets trapped. "Keeping your teeth polished helps to reduce the amount of stains," Wolff says.