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10 Foods to Avoid if You Want White Teeth

Shannan Bergtholdt author image
lady eating a chocolate bar
Having a bright white smile isn’t just a reflection of how well you brush and floss your teeth. The foods you eat impact the health of your mouth and the whiteness of your teeth.

Certain foods, medications, and health conditions can make your smile fade by changing the color of your teeth. There are two primary ways foods stain our teeth. Surface stains and enamel erosion are the two primary causes of tooth discoloration. 

Foods that cause surface stains and enamel erosion have three properties in common. These foods are acidic, high in sugar, and have dark colors such as brown and red. 

Discover the ten worst foods to eat if you want white teeth and simple steps you can take to keep your smile bright. 

10 Worst Foods to Eat if You Want White Teeth 

Many of these foods that stain our teeth we eat every day. The good news is that you don’t have to avoid these foods completely during your daily routine. 

Though, sometimes regular brushing and avoiding potentially staining foods aren’t enough. That’s when it’s time to consider a tooth whitening kit. If you do use an at-home tooth whitening system, you’ll need to minimize or avoid the following foods for a couple of days to keep your smile bright white

1. Carbonated Beverages

Soda, sparkling, and seltzer waters might be very different in terms of calories and sugar, but they can be equally as harmful to your teeth. 

All of these carbonated beverages are acidic. Water has a neutral pH of 7 while sparkling and seltzer waters have an acidic pH of 3 to 4, and most sodas have a pH of less than 3. 

The acid in carbonated beverages wears away the enamel of your teeth and makes them more susceptible to dental caries. Soda also contains sugar which is closely linked with an increased cavity risk. Additionally, dark dyes and coloring in some soda can stain teeth yellow or brown. 

2. Tea and Coffee

A cup of morning coffee gives you the boost you need for the day, but it may also stain your teeth yellow or brown. 

Coffee and black teas contain tannins, which are plant compounds. Tannins are slightly acidic and are responsible for the bitter taste of black coffee and tea. The acidity from the tannins can erode the enamel layer and weaken your teeth. 

You don’t have to give up coffee to keep a healthy smile. The American Dental Association recommends waiting 30 to 60 minutes to brush your teeth after drinking coffee. Brushing can sometimes amplify the erosion effect of coffee’s acidity. Instead of brushing right away, drink plenty of water after coffee to neutralize the acid in your mouth. 

3. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are the best foods for the antioxidant vitamin C, but they can be tough on your teeth. Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit are all acidic fruits. 

The same citric acid that provides vitamin C can be detrimental to your teeth. Citric acid could erode the enamel of your teeth, exposing the yellow layer of dentin underneath. This enamel erosion causes teeth to look yellow. 

Enamel erosion can also leave your teeth feeling more sensitive than usual to hot and cold temperatures. 

Don’t ditch the citrus completely, as they are a nutritious part of the diet. Instead, combat erosion by choosing low acid juice options, drinking lemon water through a straw, and rinse your mouth with water after consuming citrus.

4. Red Wine

The tooth-staining capacity of red wine is apparent almost immediately. Your smile will start to look red after drinking a glass of red wine. 

Red wine’s color, called chromogens, contains all of its heart-healthy properties, but also will discolor your teeth. Chromogen is a term for a chemical compound that can be converted into a dye. 

If you’ve ever spilled red wine on clothing or a carpet, you are witnessing the staining effect of chromogens. Comparably, red wine chromogens will stain your teeth brown. In fact, one study looked at coffee and wine stains after a whitening treatment and found that red wine stained teeth significantly more than coffee. 

At-home dental whitening kits are a smart solution for stubborn red wine stains on your teeth. GLO science teeth whitening systems combine heat and light technology with sensitivity-free hydrogen peroxide to brighten your smile at home. You can get clinically-proven whitening results from dentist-invented GLO science. 

5. Hard Candy

Hard candies pose a triple threat to your teeth. First, crunching candy can break or chip your teeth creating a dental emergency. 

Eating sugary foods can contribute to the buildup of plaque on your teeth. Over time, plaque can erode the enamel of your teeth, causing discoloration and cavities if left untreated. 

Similar to the chromogens in red wine, the colorful dyes in hard candy will leave your smile looking faded. Dark colors such as red, purple, blue, black, and brown are particularly problematic for your smile. 

6. Curry Powder 

Curry leaves are green, but curry powder is a blend of several spices, one of which is turmeric. 

Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties which is why it appears in many health foods from smoothies to supplements. Raw turmeric has a deep orange color and if you’ve ever handled it, you will know it stains your fingers a yellow-orange color. Once dried and turned into a powder, turmeric takes on a more yellow tint. 

Using curry powder and turmeric in cooking packs a big punch of flavor, but over time, can leave your teeth looking yellow. Be sure to drink plenty of water after consuming curry. 

7. Dark Fruits

The dark color of pomegranate, cranberry, cherries, and blueberries is a clue that the fruit contains antioxidants. Anthocyanins are bluish-purple antioxidants that help protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals and are tremendously beneficial for health. 

Though, the same dark color from these fruits can permeate the enamel of your teeth and stain them.

Berries can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, canned, or as a juice. For dental health, consider limiting the amount of fruit juice you consume because it may contain added sugars, which contribute to dental caries. 

8. Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes are an acidic fruit. Their acidity will wear away the enamel of your teeth, leaving them looking dull. 

Cooking tomatoes into a sauce removes the liquid and concentrates the color into a deep red. Exposing your teeth to that deep red color will turn them dark yellow over time.

If pasta, pizza, and chili meals are starting to show on your teeth, it might be time to invest in a home dental whitening solution. Snow is a fast and easy-to-use home whitening system that is proven to get your teeth several shades brighter. Its patented LED whitening system delivers results in as little as one treatment. 

9. Beets

If you’ve ever prepared fresh beets, you’ll know that the bright purple-red color will stain your fingers, cutting board, and clothes, if you’re not careful. 

The staining power of beets is also apparent in the toilet as they will turn your urine and stools red. Though, any changes to urine and stools are temporary and aren't cause for concern. The staining effects on your teeth could be longer-lasting. 

Whether you enjoy beets cooked or as a juice, their dark red color will turn your teeth brown. Beet juice contains a more concentrated color than fresh beets. Try brushing your teeth after enjoying a meal or beverage with beets to help with temporary staining. 

10. Chocolate

Similar to coffee, tea, and red wine, chocolate contains tannins, the polyphenols responsible for turning teeth brown. Foods with polyphenols deposit thin coatings on surfaces, including the enamel surface of your teeth. 

Unless you are eating 100% dark chocolate, there is going to be some added sugar in chocolate. Sugar in excess can compromise the enamel of your teeth and contribute to the formation of plaque and cavities. 

Dark chocolate will typically have less sugar and milk solids added, in comparison to milk chocolate. This fact also makes dark chocolate more acidic than milk chocolate, which can wear on tooth enamel. 

Conclusion

There are three common traits among the worst foods to eat if you want white teeth. These foods are:

  • Acidic. Foods high in acidity can wear away tooth enamel leaving your smile looking dull and yellow. Citrus fruits, carbonated beverages, and tomatoes have high acidity. 
  • Dark colored. Coffee, tea, red wine, beets, berries and chocolate contain the health benefits of antioxidants. But, the dark color of tannins or pigments can stain your teeth over time. 
  • Sugary. Hard candies, juices and some types of chocolate contain sugar, which increases plaque build up on your teeth and raises the risk of cavities. 

Don’t worry if the top ten worst foods to eat if you want white teeth are your everyday favorites. The good news is that you do not need to eliminate these foods. Drinking plenty of water and brushing after eating these foods can help reduce staining. 

When regular brushing isn’t enough, there are a variety of at-home tooth whitening kits that can get you professional results at a fraction of the cost. You can find the right whitening kit for even the most sensitive teeth. 

Shannan Bergtholdt author image
Shannan Bergtholdt, MS Ed, RDN is a Registered Dietitian with 18 years of experience, and is highly adept at translating health information in engaging and effective ways. As a consultant, she has diverse sales copywriting and freelance experience delivering practical and actionable nutrition information.

Natural Intelligence does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or your local emergency number immediately.