5 Foods You may be Eating that are Staining Your Teeth

“Hey..I think I’m ready for my close-up,” said no one with stained teeth ever.

Want to keep your pearly whites….white?

While I love nutrition and food, I do admit I am no expert on teeth and dental health. So I called upon teeth expert and friend of mine, Bethany Wong, to help me out with this piece where we reveal the 5 foods you are eating that may be staining your teeth.

Bethany is currently a fourth year student at Columbia School of Dental Medicine. She will be graduating in May 2014 and starting her residency in General Practice dentistry on Long Island, NY. She also holds a degree in Biological Engineering from Cornell University. 

Here’s what we came up with…

When thinking of foods or drinks that may stain your teeth, there are two main factors to keep in mind….

Acid – The outer layer of your teeth is the ‘Enamel,‘ the inner layer is the ‘Dentin.’ Even though enamel is known to be the hardest substance of the human body, it can be eroded with acid, which softens the enamel and can cause pits and irregularities of the teeth.

Color – Foods and drinks with dark or strong color (chromogens and tannins) can seep into the pits, fissures, and ‘pores’ within the enamel, and this leads to extrinsic teeth staining.

Keeping these two components in mind…the following may not be surprising to you

5 Foods you are eating that may be staining your teeth

1) Coffee– That daily cup of joe may start your day off right but it is ruining your smile. The dark pigment of coffee, especially black coffee, along with the acid component can cause yellowing stains and micro-erosion on your teeth.

2) Tomato Sauce- We love our tomato sauce on pasta and pizza, but the high acid can cause enamel erosion. 

3) Beets – Ever held beets in your hands and end up looking like a purple monster? Imagine what’s it is doing to your teeth…

4) Citrus fruits- Grapefruit, oranges, and lemon juice are great when it comes to Vitamin C but are way too high in acid for your teeth. People who have a habit of sucking lemons may have flattened teeth due to enamel erosion.

5) Wine– Both red and white wine are highly acidic and can erode teeth, but red wine contains the pigments chromogen and tannins (also in tea), which are known to discolor teeth.

We’re not going to leave you hanging with the “horrible” news (that’s just mean)..

Here are some tips on how to lessen the staining.

1) Drink with a straw– The straw helps keep beverages away from your front teeth, minimizing surface for staining. So the next time you are drinking soda, don’t forget to grab a straw! Crazy straws, anyone?

2) Say no to smoking or chewing tobacco! – Not only do these habits increase your risk for lung and oral cancer, it can also dry your mouth, stain your teeth, and cause gingivitis and periodontal disease.

3) Cheese and milk– Dairy products provide the calcium that can strengthen teeth. They are also basic in nature and can potentially counteract the acidity in certain foods and drinks.

4) Don’t nurse your drink!- Devote a ‘break time’ to have your coffee, soda, etc. Don’t sip it throughout the day because then you will be continuous washing it with acid.

5) Swish with water– After eating or drinking foods that can stain your teeth, you can ‘wash your teeth’ gently by swishing and rinsing with water… but don’t brush your teeth just yet!

6) Wait 30 minutes before brushing teeth– This may be counter-intuitive but acidic foods erode/soften your teeth temporarily, so brushing immediately after can actually be more damaging to your teeth. You may be scrubbing away your softened enamel while also pushing stains further in. Rinse with water, let your saliva buffer some of the acid away, and then follow-up with brushing and flossing 30 minutes later!

Thank you for your expertise Bethany! I guess I will need to drink my wine with a straw next time… kidding….

Any of the foods on this list surprise you? Do you drink your beverages with a straw?

Happy (and healthy) Smiling,

Joanna + Bethany

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