You brush twice a day, you don’t smoke, and you never skip flossing. So why are your teeth looking stained and discolored? The answer might just be that daily trip to Starbucks every morning—even if you don’t order coffee. Here are some of the most common culprits when it comes to tooth discoloration.
We couldn’t write an article about tooth discoloration without mentioning coffee. Coffee stains appear as yellow discoloration on the teeth. These stains are caused by tannins, a naturally-occurring substance found in many foods and beverages. They have an astringent flavor that you might appreciate in your morning latte, but most of us can probably do without the stains they leave behind. Even one cup of coffee a day can create stains on your tooth enamel.
Unfortunately, ordering a chai latte or Earl Grey at the coffee shop isn’t going to help with your stains either. Teas have tannins too—in fact, black tea has more tannins than coffee, meaning it can produce worse tooth discoloration. Even herbal teas can have tannins, although in lesser quantities than black tea or coffee.
If you’ve tried storing pasta sauce in a plastic container, you know there’s no amount of scrubbing that can remove the orange hue it leaves behind. The same goes for your teeth. Tomato sauce is acidic, which wears away at your tooth enamel, and highly pigmented, which causes stains. If you eat tomato sauce frequently, it can lead to tooth discoloration.
Red wine is rich in tannins, acidic, and highly-pigmented—it’s easy to see why it’s responsible for so many stained teeth. You might be surprised to learn that white wine can also set the stage for stains because of its acidity, which wears down the enamel and allows stains to penetrate.
If you like to dress your daily lunchtime salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, you may be getting more than you bargained for. The acid in balsamic vinegar wears away the tooth enamel and its dark color can cause stains to form. Even worse? Balsamic vinegar is sticky, so it adheres to your teeth long after you’ve finished your meal.
Simple Solutions to Fight Tooth Discoloration
If your teeth are already stained, professional teeth whitening treatments offer the most dramatic results in the shortest amount of time. To prevent future stains from forming, you don’t have to give up your favorite foods and drinks. Here are some tips:
- If you don’t want to cut coffee or tea out of your daily routine, simply cut down.
- When you can, brush your teeth after eating or drinking something that causes stains.
- Not able to brush? Drink water after tea, coffee, or red wine and give it a swish to rinse your teeth.
- Don’t savor your coffee or tea all morning long. It’s better to drink it in one sitting, then rinse.
- Buy your beverage of choice iced and use a straw to drink it.