A healthy-looking smile says a lot about a person. Aside from communicating a positive mood, smiling also instantly breaks down barriers, making a person appear warm and approachable. Many people, however, shy away from flashing their pearly whites because their teeth aren't in tip-top condition and perhaps aren't as white as they may wish. If you are one of those people, you may be surprised to hear that your diet could be contributing to the cause of teeth discoloration and simple changes in what you eat and drink can help make a big difference to the brightness of your smile.
Here we will take a look at the worst tooth staining culprits and share some top tips on how you can ensure that your smile is as winning as possible. Read on to discover:
- What foods and drinks can cause tooth staining
- The foods that can help reduce staining
- Why light coloured foods are also responsible for staining
- Expert tips on maintaining a healthy-looking smile
Prevent stains before they happen
Take a look at our infographic for a simple breakdown on how to help prevent teeth from staining.
As a general rule, most food and drinks that stain clothes can also stain teeth, even some healthy fruits and berries. These include:
- Tomato pasta sauces
- Soy Sauce
- Blueberries and blackberries
- Balsamic vinegar
- Coloured ice lollies
- Bright food colouring
- Cola drinks
- Red wine
- White wine
- Fruit Juice
We are all aware of the common tooth staining culprits, namely coffee, red wine and nicotine, but did you know that white wine and lemonade can be equally bad for staining teeth? Although these drinks are pale in colour, their acidity can cause the tooth enamel to weaken, leaving teeth vulnerable and prone to being discoloured by other foods. Not only does this acid contribute towards teeth staining, it can also cause unnecessary wear to teeth. Whilst the natural reaction to anything potentially damaging to teeth is to immediately brush it away, dentist David Cocker suggests waiting before you go in with the bristles:
Don’t brush your teeth for 2 hours after eating or drinking anything acidic (such as fruit, fizzy drinks, fruit juices, smoothies etc). When acid has just attacked the surface of the enamel it is left in a ‘softened state’ and if you brush your teeth soon after, you will accelerate this wear! By delaying brushing your teeth it will allow time for the saliva to wash over the teeth and harden the enamel surface.
Although we have highlighted foods and drinks that may cause tooth staining, it doesn’t mean that you have to avoid them altogether. It’s all about moderation, and aside from maintaining a healthy oral care routine, there are also certain foods and drinks that actually improve the whiteness of your teeth, and can even work to counteract the staining effects of other foods. Foods that can help minimise discolouration include:
- Sipping water between mouthfuls will help wash away food residue and dilute any possible staining.
- Fibrous fruit
- Eating fruits such as apples and pears can help naturally whiten the teeth. Not only does chewing help boost the saliva flow which cleans the mouth, the fibrous content helps remove stains as it gently scrubs against the teeth whilst eating.
- Eating crunchy lettuce with balsamic vinegar can counteract the staining effects of the vinegar.
- Green veg
- Dark green veg, such as spinach, kale and broccoli will create a protective film over teeth, so they are great for eating before tomato based sauces.
- Finishing a meal with some hard cheese will raise plaque calcium levels and help harden softened enamel.
- Milk is also great for neutralising acid and strengthening teeth.
- Despite being a berry, strawberries actually temporarily whiten rather than stain teeth. This is due to the malic acid present in them.
Aside from being aware of what foods and drinks can affect the colour of your teeth, it is important to make sure that your oral hygiene routine is up to scratch, as this can make a huge difference to your smile. Professional dentist David Cocker BSD(lond)LDS RCS (Eng) shares his top tips for a healthy-looking smile:
- Brush your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste.
- Avoid sugary snacks and drinks between meals.
- Visit your dentist regularly.
- Use the softest, kindest toothbrush you can find because you only have so much enamel on your teeth, and that has to last a lifetime. Too hard a toothbrush can damage both the teeth and gums.
- Chew sugar free gum for 20 minutes after eating acidic food to increase the flow of saliva and accelerate the hardening of the enamel surface.
- Use a fluoride mouthwash to repair the softened enamel and leave a layer that is much tougher and more resistant to acid attack.
- Try to remove every scrap of plaque on your teeth before going to bed so it doesn’t have a chance to dry out and harden overnight, leaving a rough surface that will encourage the build-up of stains and more plaque.
- If you are right handed, it is easier to clean the teeth on the left side of your mouth, so try to spend even more time cleaning the teeth on the right side. The reverse applies if you are left handed.