Stained Teeth

Stained or discoloured teeth can add years to your appearance.

MouthSurprisingly, some of the foods that stain your teeth are extremely good for your health. 

Even short-term exposure of the tooth enamel to some foods can cause discolouration. Knowing which foods can possibly stain your teeth and learning how to minimize risks can be of great help in your quest to look your youngest and to keep a bright and shiny smile.

Why does food discolour your teeth? 

There are basically three factors that contribute to food-related tooth discoloration:

Chromogens – Intensely pigmented molecules contained in foods and beverages that tend to latch on to tooth enamel.

Acidity – Highly acidic foods and drinks erode and soften the tooth enamel and contribute to tooth staining by facilitating the latching of chromogens. These are usually fizzy or sour foods and drinks.

Tannins – A group of phenol compounds found in some plants, tannins are known to enhance the ability of chromogens to attach to the tooth enamel.

As a general rule: the more intense the color of a food or drink, the higher the chance that it stains the teeth. The staining effect is further increased by acidity or the presence of tannins.

Top foods and drinks that stain teeth:

Wine: Due to its content of chromogens and tannins, red wine is known for its smile wrecking effect. A fact that might come as a surprise is that white wine too can promote teeth staining. A handy tip to those that suffer from red wine stains between their teeth, the stain is sticking to plaque so give them a good brush and thorough floss between your teeth before you go out and you won’t be plagued by this problem anymore.

Tea and Coffee: Watch out for the black tea and coffee! Both are notorious staining agents as they are more aggressive than herbal tea, green or white tea. The staining potential of black tea and coffee is given by its richness in tannins.

Cola: This drink preferred by many is rich in chromogens and like all fizzy drinks (even the diet ones) is acidic too, which makes its staining potential really strong.

Sports drinks: Due to their high acidity, sports drinks may soften tooth enamel, thus making teeth prone to staining.

Berries: Intensely colored fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, pomegranates, etc…

Sweets: Many of the hard lollies, chewing gum, ice blocks, etc. contain staining coloring agents.

How to avoid tooth staining:

Rule number one that applies in all fields of life is of course, moderation in consumption. Additional advice usually given by dentists is to:

• Use a straw when drinking potentially staining drinks

• Don’t brush immediately after eating or drinking acidic foods and beverages – your enamel will be temporarily softer and more easily abraded so instead swish with water or a pH neutral mouthwash and brush at least 30 minutes later

• Chew sugarless chewing gum after eating or drinking

• Avoid regular use of whitening toothpastes. These tend to be much more abrasive than normal toothpastes and over time will thin the brighter enamel layer making your teeth appear darker

• avoid habits like smoking

By recognising the power of prevention and by applying these simple rules every time you eat or drink something that could stain your teeth, you not only prolong the life of your healthy smile, but also keep a younger look. Daily brushing and flossing as well as being good for oral health, will help to lessen the staining effects. Your dentist and hygienist can remove stubborn stains and provide you with customized solutions to manage discolouration or improve the overall colour of your teeth.

Jeremy Bywater Dentist Takapuna & Central Auckland. Ph: 4861605.