Stained Teeth and You: A Quick Guide

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that teeth get stained.

We’re not talking temporary. Our teeth, as much as we like to pretend otherwise, aren’t invincible. Certain foods can–and will–start to change the color of our teeth, leading to a dimmer smile, unsightly splotches, and less confidence overall. If you’re not careful, your teeth could change color permanently, requiring a more expensive fix down the line. While teeth whitening and porcelain veneers can certainly brighten your smile, preventative care is the best!

So how do we keep teeth from staining? First of all, it’s important to remember that you can stop stains in their tracks! Knowing which foods damage your teeth is a great way to prevent damage from occurring in the first place. And though you may think a perfect white smile means a lot of hard work, it can be as simple as keeping an eye out for foods like these:

Acidic Food and Drink

Our teeth are made of calcium. Though that’s a pretty big oversimplification, it’s largely true– the hard part of our teeth is made of a material that puts up with a lot, but has a few key weaknesses. Acidic food and drink won’t destroy your teeth, but they’ll certainly weaken the enamel enough to make your teeth susceptible to discoloration.

Foods like tomato and wine that are high in acid begin to wear away at your enamel, creating tiny cracks and imperfections in the smooth surface of your teeth. It’s these imperfections that begin to collect bits of the food you eat, changing the color of your chompers from pearly-white to yellow or grey. This leads us to the next big danger zone:

Chromogens and Pigment

The second thing you should watch out for is food that comes with a high chromogen count. So-called ‘chromogens’ are biological molecules that are the most easily converted to dyes and pigments. While not strictly bad for teeth, you can see how food high in chromogens might start to change the color of your teeth, especially when combined with enamel-etching acids.

Food and drink with naturally occurring pigments and chromogens–like red wine and vibrant yellow curry–are things to look out for. But you’ve also got to keep an eye out for food with a high level of artificial coloration, including dyes and food coloring. These foods can seriously impact your enamel, leading to unsightly smiles. Foods like this are also often high in sugar, which presents a whole different set of problems.

Surprising Teeth-Stainers

If you’re looking for some of the worst culprits, you may be looking in the wrong place. Everyone knows that soda is a bad choice for tooth color–with sugar, acid, and artificial dye–but did you know that the same can be said for balsamic vinegar and soy sauce? It’s true! Anything with acids, saturated color, and sugars runs the risk of staining your teeth. Other items on the list? Pickles, berries, beets, and ketchup.