It may be surprising that in this day and age, yellowing, stained teeth are still such a problem. Not only in the older generation, either. It is getting more prevalent in adolescents and children. Why? We are in a world full of bright white smiles beaming down on us from adverts and out of our screens. How can we still be tapping our teeth in desperation, looking in the mirror and contemplating expensive toothpastes or cosmetic procedures? And what’s more, how can we stop it?
The Three Stooges of Staining
Firstly, let’s have a look at what causes tooth staining. The three staining agents, as it were, are:
● Chromogens – these little guys are compounds in your food and drink that cause the deep pigmentation. They stick to your tooth enamel.
● Tannins – these plant-based substances found in many drinks also stick to teeth, and what’s more, they help the chromogens stick harder.
● Acids – Anything acidic will wear away at the protective surfaces of your teeth, thus paving the way for the tannins and the chromogens to do their damage.
You could say that the acids strip the walls of their pristine white paint, the tannins prime the stripped surface and the chromogens come along with their tin of yellow paint and have a field day.
Where do they hide out?
Mostly, if it stains the tablecloth, it will stain your teeth. The main foods and drinks that cause staining are:
● Deep colored, tomato-based cooking sauces, and curry sauces full of spices. From bologna to balti, any rich colored sauces are full of chromogens and a fair amount of acid. All in a convenient liquid form to cover your teeth completely. To combat the effect, pair these sauces with dark green, iron-rich vegetables like spinach. These form a protective layer on your teeth. Add a crunchy side salad to your curry dish, with apples or celery. Or switch to lighter, cream based sauces.
● You would think salads are safe, but not totally. Balsamic vinegar and soy sauce are deeply pigmented and sticky, too. All those chromogens sticking to your teeth can be somewhat mitigated by all the crunchy bits in the salad, like lettuce and carrots, but the best thing is to switch to lighter dressing. But not lemon juice! The citric acid in lemons, grapefruit, and oranges will eat away at your enamel.
● Not only the dressing, but some fruits and berries are repeat offenders in the staining game. Any dark berries, like blackberries and cranberries, are full of chromogens and sugar that eat your enamel too. Beetroot is a big stainer, as
anyone that’s spilled the juice knows! Sprinkle your salad with nuts – they are crunchy and contain protein to protect and strengthen teeth. If you just can’t resist a bowl of raspberries – and I know I can’t – then try to keep them away from your teeth. Keep them in your mouth for as little time as possible.
● There are many drinks out there that cause staining. The usual suspects are tea, coffee, red – and white! – wine, cola and energy drinks. And of course, dark fruit drinks concentrate all that fruity color and sugar into a one size stains all
package. It’s the tannins in the tea, even though it’s not as dark as coffee. And white wine is even worse than red, as it is more acidic. When you drink wine, eat cheese. A terrible penance, I know. Cheese contains calcium, phosphorates and protein, which will help protect against the acid.
Prevention is the best cure
So now you know which foods to avoid. Or at least, how to mitigate their effects somewhat. Any dentist will tell you that a great oral hygiene routine will keep your protective layers strong. Rinsing and brushing regularly, especially after meals, will wash as much as possible away.
Today’s society is one of immediacy and ease. Fruit comes in handy juice packages, coffee is on every street corner. Every chef has his brand of pasta sauces for a quick meal. Vigilance is key. Restrict your child’s brightly colored candy. Keep your coffee intake down. Use a reusable straw. Make wise food choices. Your enamel will only get
weaker as you get older, and those stooges will get through the cracks. Keeping your teeth in tip-top shape as soon as they grow is the best protection against staining.
WebMD – https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/foods-stain-teeth-feature#1
Kids Dental Online – http://www.kidsdentalonline.com/foods-stain-teeth/
Bupa – https://www.bupa.co.uk/newsroom/ourviews/teeth-staining-foods