27 Foods That Stain Teeth

27 Foods That Stain Teeth

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Medical Reviewed on Oct 18, 2023
byDr. Matthew Hannan DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
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.”

Anytime something has pores in it, those little holes are prone to absorbing the liquids they come into contact with. If it’s coffee, tea, or red wine, those dark stain particles and dark pigments will settle down inside of the tubules and cause “intrinsic” (internal) stains below the outer enamel surface of the tooth.

2. Some foods and drinks will stain anything. 

Think about it. Would you set blackberries directly on top of your grandmother’s favorite tablecloth? Or pick them by hand an hour before heading out with friends. Probably not, because they would stain your hands, mouth, the tablecloth, and everything else they come into contact with. If food will stain a white shirt, it will also stain your teeth.

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. 

1. Coffee

If you can’t start your day without a cup (or three) of coffee, fighting enamel stain is going to be a constant battle. Coffee and cause some nasty tooth stains. Please don’t make it worse on your teeth with tons of sweeteners or flavors in the process. 

2. Tea

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. 

4. Cherries

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. 

9. Beets

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. 

10. Curry

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. 

17. Blackberries

Don’t eat these right before you go anywhere, because they might stain your lips and fingers, not just discolored teeth!

18. Raspberries

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.

23. Mustard

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. 

26. Vinegar

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!

27. Ketchup

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Have your teeth whitened professionally at the dentist’s office. The process usually takes anywhere from 60-90 minutes. 
  3. 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. 

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Matthew  Hannan DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Matthew Hannan DDSDr. Matthew Hannan is a board-certified dentist and graduate of UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.
Last updated onOctober 26, 2023Here is our process

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