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Slideshow: Foods That Stain Your Teeth

Tea and Your Teeth

Although tea has a reputation as a healthy beverage, it may not be the best choice when it comes to keeping your teeth white. Dentists say tea -- especially the basic black variety -- can cause more stains than coffee. However, recent studies have found that even herbal teas and white teas have the potential to erode enamel and cause tooth staining.

Sauces May Stain Teeth

They may be delicious, but deeply-colored sauces -- like soy sauce, tomato sauce, and curry sauce -- are also believed to have significant tooth-staining potential. Consider lighter cream sauces for less damaging options and rinse or brush soon after eating to reduce the potential for teeth stains.

Sports Drinks and Staining

Acidic foods and drinks can also lead to tooth discoloration. Recent research finds that highly acidic drinks -- like sports or energy drinks -- can erode tooth enamel, setting the stage for staining. When exercising, limit the intake of these drinks. Water may be a better choice -- at least for your teeth.

Wine and White Teeth

If a food or drink can stain a tablecloth, it has the potential to stain your teeth. Red wine, an acidic drink with intensely pigmented molecules called tannins and chromogens, is notorious for tooth discoloration. White wine is even more acidic and can lead to stains, too.

Tooth Stains and Berries

Intensely pigmented molecules stick to dental enamel. That's why blueberries, blackberries, cherries, pomegranates, and other vibrantly colored fruits can stain teeth. Juices and pies made from those fruits can also cause stains. Fruits with less pigmentation -- like white grapes and white cranberries -- are less likely to stain teeth. But these acidic substances can still harm enamel, so be sure to brush and floss.

Soda, Cola, and Other Carbonated Drinks

The acid and chromogens in these drinks can lead to serious staining of your teeth. Even light-colored sodas contain enough acid that they can encourage staining by other foods and drinks. The acidity in some carbonated drinks is so intense that it actually compares to the acidity in battery acid. Many of these beverages contain flavored additives that add to their erosive effects.

Candy, Sweets, and White Teeth

If your favorite sweet -- like hard candy, chewing gum, or popsicles -- makes your tongue change colors, it may contain teeth-staining coloring agents. Fortunately, unless you eat those goodies often they probably won't do much to stain your teeth.

Minimize Staining: Cut Back

You may not want to cut all teeth-staining food and drinks out of your diet. Many of those foods and beverages -- like blueberries, blackberries, and tomato sauce -- are rich in antioxidants. You want these beneficial nutrients in your diet. So keep eating them -- but in moderation -- or substitute other antioxidant sources such as cauliflower, apples, grapefruit, and melon.

Use a Straw to Fight Stains

Try using a straw to sip your favorite drinks -- like sodas, juices, and iced tea. This should keep teeth-staining drinks away from your front teeth and reduce your risk of unsightly stains.

Swallow Swiftly

Don't let stain-causing foods and drinks linger in your mouth for long. Instead, swallow them quickly to help protect your teeth from stains. To avoid choking, it's still important to chew your food well before swallowing and be sure not to gulp.

Rinse -- then Brush -- After Eating

Swish your mouth with water right after eating a stain-causing food or drink. For about 30 minutes after you consume something acidic, the enamel on your teeth is especially at risk of abrasion from tooth brushing. So rinse, then brush well after every meal. If you can't get to your toothbrush, chew a piece of sugarless gum as soon as you've eaten.

The Truth About Healthy Teeth

Reviewed by Alfred D. Wyatt Jr., DMD on April 14, 2014

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