The solution is *not* an all-white diet.
Dentists work daily to help people have clean, straight, pain-free teeth, but for many people, their #1 priority is actually the color: “How can I have whiter teeth?” In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists found that 90 percent of patients ask for tooth whitening in the office.
When it comes to foods that stain your teeth, coffee and red wine are known culprits. But they’re not the only foods that can dim the brightness of your smile.
How Foods Discolor Your Teeth
The outer coating of each tooth—known as the enamel—is hard, calcified tissue that protects the more fragile portion inside, according to the American Dental Association. Although tooth enamel seems like a shield, it’s not immune to everything—especially not the food and drink it’s exposed to multiple times a day.
“Teeth are porous,” says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, dentist in New York City. “Like the skin has pores, your teeth have pores.”
Pigment from food can attach to the enamel, resulting in short-term staining, or even seep into those pores for a more permanent stain that’s harder to remove.
The Foods that Commonly Stain Teeth
The more intense the color pigment of the food is, the more of a stain it might leave. Deep, rich colors like the burgundy of red wine or the crimson of cranberry juice are obvious offenders.
These foods are known for staining teeth:
Soda, especially cola
But that doesn’t mean less colorful foods are off the hook: “Believe it or not, even white wine will stain your teeth,” says Dr. Jablow. “It has a little bit of coloration in it.” Her rule: If a food can stain a white t-shirt, it can stain your teeth.
Other foods can contribute to a yellow smile in other ways, regardless of their pigment. Acidic foods, like soda and citrus, can wear down enamel and make your teeth more vulnerable to staining. Eating oranges is obviously good for you, but sucking on citrus repeatedly may expose your teeth to too much acid and ruin your white smile.
How to Enjoy Your Favorite Foods and Prevent Stains
By no means should you ditch berries and beets just for a whiter smile. “You can’t stay on an all-white diet,” says Dr. Jablow. “You should enjoy your foods, and not shy away from foods just because they have color.”
After all, fresh fruits and veggies in a variety of colors contain important nutrients that actually help keep teeth (and bones throughout your body) stronger and healthier. Calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C are all great micronutrients for your smile, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here are top sources of calcium, and here are top sources of vitamin C.
Here are ways you can minimize staining caused by foods, according to Dr. Jablow.
Drink water after eating or drinking a tooth-staining item. This flushes out the pigment that sticks to the enamel. (Bonus: It also helps flush away bacteria that cause bad breath.)
Use a straw to keep high-pigment liquids from staining your front teeth. “Most of the stain will bypass [your front teeth] and go to the back of the mouth,” says Dr. Jablow.
Eat fibrous, crunchy foods like apples, celery, and carrots to minimize the amount of pigment that sticks to teeth. These foods work a bit like a nature’s toothbrush. “I wouldn’t necessarily say they would whiten [teeth],” says Dr. Jablow, “but they will help remove any substance that’s stuck to the surface of the teeth.”
And of course, don’t forget to practice good oral hygiene every day. Find out how bad it is to not brush your teeth twice a day, and check out the dangers of never flossing.
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So teeth are porous, like the skin
have pores, your teeth have pores.
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So anything that has color that
will stain a white shirt is going
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to stain your teeth.
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We call it life stains, so
soda, coffee, tea, red wine,
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even chocolate, unfortunately.
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Believe it or not,
even white wine will stain your teeth,
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because it has a little
bit of coloration in it.
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You want to make sure you're not
constantly exposing your teeth to
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a lot of acid.
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You're not drinking a lot of
drinks that are super acidic.
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You're not sucking on lemons or
citrus fruits constantly as well.
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Because that's something that's
also going to thin down the enamel,
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make it look very translucent, very worn,
and you can become very sensitive as well.
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So say for example,
you had a glass of red wine.
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And then, you looked in the mirror and
your teeth are purple.
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The best thing that you could
do is chase it with a glass of
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water to help minimize the amount of
staining that'll happen to your teeth.
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But using a straw will minimize
the amount of staining,
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because you're not bringing it up right to
your front, what we call your smile teeth.
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And most of the staining will bypass and
go right to the back of the mouth.
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crunchy foods like apples, celery,
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carrots, are gonna act like
a nature's toothbrush on your teeth.
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I wouldn't necessarily say
they would whiten them,
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but it'll help remove any substance
that's stuck to the surface of the teeth.
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So you can't stay on an all-white diet.
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There are wonderful products out there
that'll help you maintain your white smile
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So you should enjoy your foods and not shy
away from foods just cuz they have color.
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Healthy nutrition for healthy teeth. Chicago, IL: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2017. (Accessed on June 1, 2018 at https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/healthy-nutrition-for-healthy-teeth.)
Tooth. Chicago, IL: American Dental Association. (Accessed on June 1, 2018 at https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/tooth.)