Teeth Cleaning 101: Foods That Stain Your Teeth
Determined to keep those pearly whites their whitest? You already know how important it is to brush and floss daily and to see a dentist periodically — and to avoid smoking or chewing tobacco. But dentists say you should also be mindful of certain foods and beverages that stain teeth.
As you might imagine, intensely colored foods and beverages tend to be the biggest offenders. “If you’re worried about spilling [the food or beverage] on your white tablecloth, you can be sure it’s got the potential to stain teeth,” says Matthew J. Messina, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Cleveland. “The more intense the color, the more potential there is for staining.”
The color in these foods and beverages comes from chromogens, intensely pigmented molecules with an unfortunate penchant for latching on to dental enamel. But the presence of chromogens isn’t the only thing that determines the staining potential of foods and beverages.
Acidity is another factor. Acidic foods and beverages — including some that are not brightly colored — promote staining by eroding the dental enamel, temporarily softening teeth and making it easier for chromogens to latch on. And finally, a family of food compounds known as tannins promotes staining by further boosting chromogens’ ability to attach to enamel.
The Top Teeth-Staining Foods and Beverages
1. Wine. Red wine, an acidic beverage that contains chromogens and tannins, is notorious for staining teeth. But white wine, too, promotes staining. In a study conducted recently at New York University School of Dentistry, teeth exposed to tea were stained more severely if they previously had been exposed to white wine. So if you’re fond of following up that glass of Chardonnay with a cup of Earl Grey, you may be giving your teeth a double whammy.
2. Tea. Like wine, the ordinary black tea most people drink is rich in stain-promoting tannins. Dentists say it’s a bigger stainer than coffee, which is chromogen-rich but low in tannins. “Tea’s pretty aggressive,” says Mark S. Wolff, DDS, PhD, chairman of the department of cariology and comprehensive care at New York University School of Dentistry in New York City. Herbal, green, and white teas are less likely to stain than black tea.