What causes tooth stains?
Chemical compounds called chromogens give certain foods and drinks their strong colour, and these can stain our teeth. Foods and drinks containing a substance called tannin can also make your teeth much more likely to stain. Acids can wear down your teeth, increasing the chances of stains setting in. In general, if something could stain your clothes or your tongue, the chances are it’s also going to stain your teeth.
Common teeth-staining foods
Here are some of the most common types of food and drink that can stain your teeth. Somewhat confusingly, some of them can also contain vitamins and minerals which have lots of health benefits! So you don’t necessarily want to cut all of them out of your diet altogether — especially if you don’t consume them too regularly. However, if you have a certain food or drink often and it’s causing teeth staining which bothers you, cutting down can be part of the solution.
- Tea and coffee. Tea and coffee both contain tannins, which cause the staining. There is some evidence that upping the milk in your tea or coffee may help to counteract the staining.
- Red wine. It’s fine to enjoy the occasional glass of wine. But unfortunately for our teeth, red wine is one of the most common causes of tooth staining.
- Cola. The dark colouring of this drink, coupled with the acids which will wear away at your teeth, make cola a definite no for your teeth.
- Fruit juices. Dark-coloured fruit juices, such as cranberry, blueberry and grape juices are liable to leave stains on your teeth.
- Tomato-based sauces. Tomatoes are a great source of many important nutrients. But the pigment causing their deep red colour makes them a key offender for staining.
- Curry. With its strong, deep colouring it’s no wonder that eating lots of curries can leave behind tell-tale signs on your teeth.
- Balsamic vinegar. It may make a tasty salad dressing, but the deep pigmentation in balsamic vinegar means you need to watch out for its effects on your teeth.
- Soy sauce. It’s a classic addition to any good stir-fry, but the dark colouring of soy may linger on your teeth long after your meal’s finished.
- Berries. Munching on a handful of berries can help to tot up your five-a-day. But as healthy as they may be, berries are another tooth-staining culprit.
- Beetroot. Beetroot is packed full of vitamins and minerals, and there have been claims about its health benefits. But if you’ve ever handled beetroot, you’ll know just how much it can stain.
What can you do about tooth staining?
Although certain things can make you more prone to staining, the biggest factor by far is poor oral hygiene. Here are a few simple measures you can take to help keep your teeth sparkling white.
- If you have tooth staining because you consume a lot of a certain food or drink, try to limit it or look for alternatives. Could you substitute a normal cup of tea for a light herbal tea or flavoured hot water?
- Rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking something that may stain your teeth.
- Use a straw when drinking cold drinks like cola or juice that may stain your teeth.
- Chewing gum that contains xylitol can help to stimulate more saliva, which cleanses your mouth.
- Eat plenty of crunchy fruit and veg, like apples, carrots and celery as they boost saliva and scrub your teeth, acting as natural stain removers.
- Make sure you’re brushing your teeth twice a day, and as recommended by your dentist.
- See your dentist or hygienist as frequently as they advise. They may recommend some products you can try to reduce staining. They can also tell you more about any services they may offer, such as professional cleaning or tooth whitening.
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