Ten Dangerous Culprits for Staining Your Teeth

If you have stained and yellowing teeth, it can feel uncomfortable to smile and be happy. While professional dental whitening treatments are a safe and effective way to whiten your teeth; however, good oral hygiene and avoiding these culprits will also lead to a beautiful white smile.

A certain amount of staining is natural as the years pass, but good dental hygiene works well at stopping discoloration getting out of hand. An essential part of stain prevention, however, is to be careful about what you eat and drink. Some foodstuffs are natural stainers, and you should take care if you consume them regularly. Here are nine highly staining foods and drinks (and one bad habit) to be aware of so you can reduce their impact.


No matter how efficiently coffee kick-starts your day, it can also dull your early-morning smiles by darkening your tooth enamel. A typical cup is full of the pigments which produce that natural rich, dark color found in a perfect brew. These substances, however, are easily trapped in the microscopic pits and cracks of your dental surfaces. Luckily, these pigments are also extremely soluble, and so rinsing your mouth with plain water after a cup will minimize the staining risk.

Black Tea

Black tea is high in tannin, a chemical which makes it easier for substances to stick to your teeth’s surface, strengthening the effects of other staining agents. The other acids involved, if you take your tea with lemon or sugar, will only increase these risks. Green and herbal teas are much lower in tannin, and so it’s worth switching over at least some of your tea consumption to these milder varieties.

Red and White Wine

Wine also contains high levels of tannin, with all staining dangers that involves. However, the wine presents other risks to your teeth as well. It contains enamel-softening acids, and red wine, in particular, is packed with intense pigments known as chromogens which will quickly leave their mark on weakened dental surfaces. Although white wine doesn’t contain these coloring agents, it’s usually drier and more acidic, which keeps it high up in the staining stakes.


From cola or lemonade to sports energy drinks, many sodas contain substantial amounts of acid which erode the enamel surface of your teeth. That is just as true for sugar-free drinks as for regular, so switching to lite versions won’t necessarily help. Drinking mineral water instead is better for your teeth and overall health, but if you don’t want to give up soda entirely, drink it through a straw so that your teeth are less exposed.

Sweet, Sugary Snacks

Everyone knows about the cavity-inducing dangers of sugary snacks, but the acid produced by letting sugar linger in your mouth will also cause wear and tear on a much less noticeable level. By weakening the surface of your dental enamel, sugary foods will make it easier for other highly staining foods to do their damage.

Spicy Foods

From curries to chili con carne, spicy foods are often as intensely colored as they are highly flavored. Would you happily spill a Thai red curry on a pristine white shirt, or be reckless with chili condiments around fresh laundry? The same caution applies to your teeth, so make a special effort to brush, floss, and rinse after a satisfyingly spicy meal.

Fresh Fruit Juices

Fruit juices are healthy and delicious, but they’re packed with far more sugar than many people realize, even if this sweetness is in the relatively benign form of fructose. However, these sugars will still produce acids in your mouth, and many juices also contain high levels of citric acid. While no one would suggest completely cutting fruit juice from your diet, it makes sense to brush and rinse as soon as you can after drinking them so that the fructose doesn’t linger.


Berries are an exceptionally healthy food, full of antioxidants and vitamins, but anyone who’s spilled blueberry juice on a white t-shirt will know exactly how useful they are as natural dyes. However, there’s an exception to this rule: strawberries are said to have a beneficial enamel-cleaning effect thanks to their high fiber and malic acid content. While this isn’t likely to work any whitening wonders, it’s a sensible precaution to include strawberries in any bowl of berries to help offset the more highly staining ones.

Tomato Ketchup

This ubiquitous condiment is packed with sugar, acid, and pigment, producing all the negative staining effects you’d expect. However, unless you’re consuming industrial quantities with your fries, a quick rinse with mouthwash afterward will remove the danger.


Lastly, although it’s not a foodstuff, tobacco of any kind is one of the worst staining agents imaginable (not to mention the many other serious health issues that smoking involves). Whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe, puffing all that noxious smoke is going to stain your teeth.

It’s natural for teeth to become discolored over the years, as aging and wear and tear take their toll. However, once you know that certain foods and drinks will have a particularly damaging effect, then you can take steps to reduce the damage, keeping your smile brighter for longer.

Visit your dentist for more information on keeping your teeth healthy and white for years to come.