We all want a gleaming white smile. That’s why everything from toothpastes to chewing gum advertise their powers of whitening, and why tooth whitening is the most popular cosmetic procedure at most dentists’ offices. But whitening and bleaching is just cleaning up after the fact. What if you could stop the stains from happening in the first place? In order to do that, you need to know what’s causing them.
What’s Staining Your Teeth?
Chances are that it’s your eating and drinking habits that are doing the most discolouration damage to your teeth. Here are a few common culprits:
- Dark fruits like blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates contain rich pigments that can stain enamel. Rule of thumb: If it can stain clothes, it can stain teeth. Beets and curry fall into the same traps.
- Tomato sauce is both highly pigmented and acidic. The acid of the tomatoes weakens enamel, making it easier for the stain-causing particles to get past your teeth’s protective barriers.
- Coffee and tea both contain a dangerous combination of pigment and acids. Although the acid is weak, these are a common source of discolouration, since they’re a daily habit for many people. Adding lemon to tea also increases the impact.
- Red wine may be good for your heart, but it’s bad for your teeth. This highly acidic beverage is also rich in colour, and making a habit of drinking it can stain teeth. Soda has the same hangups, but without the heart benefits.
Of course, a life without all the foods and drinks on this list would be a dull one! Luckily, avoidance isn’t the only solution to tooth discolouration.
How to Protect Teeth From Stains
If you want to keep your teeth white and clean, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the damage that these foods and drinks can do to your enamel.
Step one, of course, is to keep your teeth clean. Brushing your teeth twice a day, particularly after eating foods that are sugary or highly pigmented, can prevent those stains from setting in. A fluoride toothpaste is an important part of your brushing process, since fluoride can help remineralize enamel once it’s been weakened. Just make sure not to brush within an hour of eating or drinking something very acidic. You could do more harm than good with a stiff toothbrush when your enamel is already weakened. Instead, try rinsing with water immediately to clear away the acids, and brushing a little bit later.
You can also change how you eat and drink. Drinking through a straw can send those tooth-staining liquids straight past the teeth and down your throat. Also, regular eating and drinking does a lot less damage than long, drawn out “sipping” and continuous snacking. Having a glass of wine with dinner will do a lot less damage to your teeth than nursing a glass of wine over the course of an hour-long conversation with friends.
In general, reducing tooth-staining foods and drinks is an easier and more achievable solution than eliminating them. Just keep an eye on your diet and you may see whiter teeth in your future.