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Foods and Habits That Stain Your Teeth

If you want to keep your teeth white, check this list of foods and beverages that stain teeth.
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The Top Teeth-Staining Foods and Beverages continued...

3. Cola. Acidic and chromogen-rich, cola can cause significant staining. But even light-colored soft drinks are sufficiently acidic to promote staining of teeth by other foods and beverages. “Carbonated beverages have similar acidity to battery acid,” Messina says, adding that cola-stained teeth are most common among “people who have a can on their desk all the time and sip all day long.”

4. Sports drinks. Recent research led by Wolff found that highly acidic sports drinks can soften tooth enamel -- setting the stage for staining.

5. Berries. Blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, cherries, grapes, pomegranates, and other intensely colored fruits (and juices, pies, and other foods and beverages made from them) can cause stains.

6. Sauces. Soy sauce, tomato sauce, curry sauce, and other deeply colored sauces are believed to have significant staining potential. 

7. Sweets. Hard candies, chewing gum, popsicles, and other sweets often contain teeth-staining coloring agents. If your tongue turns a funny color, dentists say, there’s a good chance that your teeth will be affected, too. But unless they are consumed regularly, these sweets probably play a minor role in teeth staining, says Maria Lopez Howell, DDS, a dentist in private practice in San Antonio.

Tips to Minimize Stained Teeth

Ironically, many of the foods and beverages that stain teeth are loaded with antioxidants, which, of course, have key health benefits. So if you’re worried about stained teeth, you might want to cut back on these foods and beverages rather than cut them out entirely. “Moderation and a balanced diet are key,” Howell says.

In addition, consider taking steps to minimize the contact between your teeth and stain-promoting substances. Dentists offer several suggestions:

  • Use a straw. Sipping beverages through a straw is believed to help keep teeth-staining beverages away from the teeth -- the front teeth, in particular. No, you’re probably not eager to use a straw for coffee or wine. But it shouldn’t be too much trouble to use a straw for cola, juices, and iced tea.
  • Swallow promptly. Swallowing stain-causing foods and beverages quickly is also believed to help protect teeth from stains. Obviously, it’s important to chew foods thoroughly before swallowing. And gulping can, of course, cause choking. But don’t retain things in your mouth for long periods of time. In other words, savor flavors -- but not for too long. “There’s no question that the quicker you drink something the lower the exposure [to stain-promoting substances],” says Debra Glassman, DDS, a dentist in private practice in New York City.
  • Swish with water. It’s not always convenient to brush your teeth after having something to eat or drink. Even when it is, it might be better not to: dental enamel is highly vulnerable to abrasion from tooth brushing for up to 30 minutes after the consumption of an acidic food or beverage. So it’s safer simply to swish with water -- and brush later, once the enamel has had a chance to re-harden. Another way to remove stain-causing substances without brushing, Howell says, is to chew sugarless gum after eating or drinking.
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Reviewed on November 10, 2009

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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.

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