27 Foods That Stain Teeth
Some of us have teeth that are naturally darker or more yellow than others. But teeth are also porous, so the absorb stain particles from the types of foods and drinks we douse them in every day. Knowing the foods that stain teeth can help you avoid additional tooth discoloration and keep your teeth whiter between bleaching sessions. Some of the foods that stain teeth are considerably healthy, while others maybe aren’t so much. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks you can have up your sleeve to reduce new or recurring tooth stains.
4 Reasons Why Food Stains Teeth
When you boil it down, there are four main reasons why your teeth absorb stains from foods and drinks:
1. Teeth are covered in tons of tiny little pores called “tubules.”
2. Some foods and drinks will stain anything.
3. You have plaque or tartar on your teeth.
Practice good oral health habits are critical. The plaque buildup on our teeth can also absorb stain. For example, if you have a lot of thick plaque along your gums and then go chuck a bright blue sports drink, you’re probably going to have blue teeth. At least with plaque you can brush it off. Calcified tartar buildup can only be cleaned off by a dental professional.
4. You have an acidic diet.
Acids like citrus fruits or vinegar, among others, can erode away at your tooth enamel and make them less resistant to stains. It might even make your teeth look yellower as the tooth enamel thins out. Sometimes it's hard to tell if its tooth stain or a cavity.
27 Stain Causing Foods And Drinks
When you get down to it, identifying foods that stain teeth is pretty easy to do. If you spilled it on your shirt and knew it would be hard to clean off, it can also stain your teeth. But sometimes it’s easy to overlook the obvious. Especially if it’s something that’s a little acidic, but maybe not necessarily a dark color that you would typically worry about.
If you can’t start your day without a cup (or three) of coffee, fighting enamel stain is going to be a constant battle. Please don’t make it worse on your teeth with tons of sweeteners or flavors in the process.
From hot English tea for breakfast to iced tea on a warm afternoon, it’s easy to sip on tea for hours on end. Without sugar, of course! If it’s free of sweeteners, you can indulge guilt-free…except the tannins in the tea will stain your teeth.
3. Wine (especially red wine)
Are you an amateur wine connoisseur? Red wine can really seep into your tooth enamel and cause major discoloration after a while. If you’re ok switching it out or alternating it with a white wine, the stain won’t be as bad.
Both fresh and processed cherries may stain your mouth when you’re eating them. But putting one on top of your ice-cream sundae isn’t going to be the end of the world.
5. Tomato-based sauces and products
Tomato soup, tomato sauce, chili, pasta, and pizza are some of the top tooth staining offenders.
6. Soy sauce
Hate to break it to you, but just like any other dark liquid, a little bit of soy sauce can catch up with your teeth after a while.
7 Balsamic vinegar
When you have the acid of vinegar and the dark black color that comes with the balsamic flavoring, it’s sort of a lose-lose against tooth stain.
8. Dark soft drinks (such as colas)
Whether you call it pop, coke, soda, or something else, drinking these dark liquids every day will easily lead to darker enamel.
You can find beets in salads, pickled for snacks, or even used as a tomato substitute in some sauces. But the way they’re prepped, combined with their red color, may stain teeth.
Do you love curry? I’ve got some sad news for you: curry is a top offender when it comes to stained teeth. Yikes!
11. Dark chocolate
Like tea, chocolate also contains tannins. The darker the chocolate is, the more potent those tannins are!
12. Pickled foods
Pickled beets, pickled okra, and pickled pickles all share a couple things in common: vinegar and acidity. As such, they can be harsh on your enamel.
13. Sports drinks
Often touted as “healthy,” these hydrating drinks are also loaded with sugars and may be worse on your teeth than soda is! Energy drink colors tends to really stick to plaque, too.
14. Citrus fruits (such as lemons and oranges)
With any citrus fruit, you run the risk of some enamel demineralization from the acid level. This can make your teeth more susceptible to stains from other foods.
15. Barbecue sauce
BBQ sauce is both acidic and loaded with dark sauces and spices. Like curry, it can stain your smile.
16. Soy milk
Sure, it looks sort of white, but some people find that they get more stain when they drink soy milk, because the soy is more acidic than regular milk.
Don’t eat these right before you go anywhere, because they might stain your lips and fingers, not just discolored teeth!
They’re not as dark as blackberries, but raspberries can still stain your teeth and tooth-colored dental work.
19. Pomegranate juice
Whether it’s fresh pomegranate juice or something with pomegranate flavoring, rinse your mouth out with water after.
20. Red pasta sauce
Since red pasta sauce is loaded with tomatoes and more acidic, it will stain your teeth more than an alfredo sauce does.
21. Red candy
Hot Tamales, red hots, red lollipops or suckers, and red Jolly Ranchers are just a few examples! They have both dye and sugars, which could stain your teeth.
22. Dark fruit juices (such as grape juice and pomegranate juice)
Juice is almost worse at staining your teeth than the actual fruit is! Juice is know for teeth staining and tooth decay.
Mustard is both acidic and tinted yellow, so it can be a little more subtle when it comes to staining your teeth.
24. Soy products (such as tofu)
You might not see actual staining from your teeth when you eat tofu, but soy products do have a bit of acidity to them. If you pair them with something like soy sauce or curry, it can make your staining more intense.
25. Artificial sweeteners and flavors
Both natural and artificial sweeteners can be acidic on your teeth. Plus, artificial flavors may also contain dyes.
Acidic foods that have vinegar in them, like pickles or a vinaigrette dressing may make your teeth more prone to picking up stains from the other foods in your diet. Rinsing with apple cider vinegar? Watch out!
Just like your tomato sauces, biting into a burger with ketchup can stain teeth, veneers, and dental bonding. Plus, ketchup is acidic!
How To Prevent Tooth Stains
Even though most of us will experience some tooth stain throughout our lifetime, there are some easy ways to cut back on how much stain you have to deal with, such as:
- Rinsing your mouth out with water after meals or drinking dark liquids.
- Using a straw to drink dark liquids to avoid their contact with your teeth.
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day.
- Using a mild whitening product such as whitening toothpaste or mouth rinse to prevent new daily stain accumulations.
- Schedule professional dental cleanings every six months to remove surface stains.
- Rinsing your mouth after swimming in a chlorinated pool or using an inhaler, which may both cause tooth stain.
How To Whiten Teeth Stains
Depending on how bad the foods that stain your teeth are, or the natural discoloration your teeth are already showing, you have a few different options when it comes to whitening your smile:
- Use over-the-counter products like strips or pre-filled trays. These are the gentlest products out there and ideal for minor stain or discoloration.
- Have your teeth whitened professionally at the dentist’s office. The process usually takes anywhere from 60-90 minutes.
- Get custom teeth whitening trays made by your dentist and use a professional bleaching gel. This is usually the best option, as you can tailor the process to your schedule, tooth sensitivity level, and touch up at any point in the future.
What Foods and Drinks Cause Tooth Discoloration?
It’s totally normal to have some stain on your teeth every now and then. But certain foods stain teeth more than others, so you don’t want to chow down on them day in and day out. For those of us who might need coffee or tea every morning, there are practical steps we can take to help limit the amount of stain we get between dental checkups. Thankfully, routine cleanings and whitening products can help you remove deep-set stains and keep your smile brighter and fresher looking.
teethtalkgirl content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or medical doctor to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.British Dental Journal. Tooth discolouration and staining: a review of the literature. British Dental Journal. 2001 Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/4800959. March 8, 2023 Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry. Does comsumption of staining drinks compromise the result of tooth whitening? . Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry. 2019 Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6825736/. March 8, 2023