When you think of stained teeth, you may be quick to blame coffee. But there are other foods and beverages that could be tingeing your pearly whites. Below, we run through a few of them. But remember, prevention is simple: Drinking water or brushing your teeth after you eat can cut down on stains.
While they're antioxidant powerhouses that provide great health benefits for your body, berries aren't always kind to your teeth. They're full of chromogens, and the rich color of blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries can cause staining, whether they're eaten whole, drunk as juice or processed as jelly and jam, according to Colgate.
The most consumed drink on the planet is even more likely than coffee to cause that yellow shade on your teeth. Tea, especially black tea, contains tannins, which are plant-based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to teeth, according to WebMD. Green or herbal teas have fewer tannins, so they may help limit stains, but they won't eliminate them.
Like tea, red wine also contains tannins. But unlike tea, red wine is an acidic drink with intensely pigmented molecules called chromogens, which is notorious for tooth discoloration because those pigments stick to the enamel on your teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Acidity helps to stain teeth because the acid makes tooth enamel softer and rougher, so it's easier for stains to set in. But don't think you're off the hook with white wine. It may lack red wine's intense pigment, but it's even more acidic than red, which means it can still cause stains, according to Bozart Family Dentistry in North Carolina.
Think of it this way: If a food or drink will stain your clothes or your tablecloth, it'll stain your teeth, too.
The dark natural color of this tasty salad topper can discolor your teeth if it's not brushed away soon after eating. But there's an easy remedy here. Just make sure your salad also contains lettuce, which will help clear the vinegar off your teeth as you crunch your greens, Colgate says.
Like red wine, dark-colored sodas contain chromogens. And all soda is acidic, which means even light-colored sodas can erode enamel and stain teeth.
One tip: If you can't kick your soda habit, consider using a straw. Sucking liquid up through a straw means it bypasses your teeth and instead goes onto the roof of your mouth and your tongue, WebMD says.
Curry and tomato sauce
The deep pigments in curries, tomato sauce and even soy sauce can yellow teeth. Plus, tomatoes are acidic. Lighter-colored sauces, such as cream sauce, are a better choice as far as white teeth are concerned (though they may not be a better option diet-wise).
Foods that help whiten teeth
Some foods can neutralize the acid in soda or wine and even clean your chompers as you eat.
Milk and hard cheese
These dairy delights benefit your teeth in two main ways, according to WebMD. They encourage saliva production, which neutralizes acid in your mouth, washes away stray food particles and helps prevent staining. Also, the calcium and other nutrients protect enamel from eroding.
Apples contain a substance called malic acid, which is responsible for the tart flavor. It increases saliva production, while the fruit's crunchy texture scrubs off leftover food particles that may cause stains on your teeth, according to Arizona Family Dental.
Think of pineapple as a natural teeth-whitener. Many teeth-whitening products contain an ingredient called bromelain, which is an enzyme found naturally in pineapple. It has many health benefits, including stain-fighting power.
Like apples, broccoli is high in fiber and can clean teeth as you eat — if you eat it raw, according to Arizona Family Dental. This cruciferous vegetable is also high in iron, which protects tooth enamel from decay.
Cauliflower, another cruciferous vegetable, requires a lot of chewing and increases saliva production, removes plaque and keeps teeth looking whiter.
Sensing a pattern here? Celery is another crunchy and fibrous veggie that cleans your teeth while you munch. Plus, celery is especially beneficial for healthy gums, Arizona Family Dental says, which means whiter, healthier teeth in the long run. You'll get the same benefits from eating raw carrots.
True, earlier we said berries are responsible for staining teeth. But strawberries are an exception. Like apples, they contain malic acid and are highly fibrous, says Arizona Family Dental, so they clean your teeth as you nibble.
AARP recommends using them as a natural teeth whitener. They suggest mashing up strawberries, rubbing them over your teeth, letting them sit for five minutes and then rinsing and brushing as usual.