What Causes Teeth Stains?

teeth stains

Keeping stains off your teeth is a two part process.  Good brushing habits and regular dental cleanings with us will help keep your teeth bright and shiny.  Cutting back on certain foods such as coffee, and changing certain habits such as tobacco use, will help keep stains off your teeth.  However, there are quite a few foods that cause teeth stains that you might not even know about.

First Things First: What Causes Stains?

Certain molecules, such as chromogens and tannins, stain your teeth. Chromogens are molecules that make dyes and pigmentation. Tannins are naturally occurring organic compounds that are commonly found in grapes and other fruit. Chromogens, tannins, and other dyes (such as artificial food coloring) will create the actual stain, but acid will secure the stain to your teeth. Acid temporarily softens tooth enamel, allowing chromogens, tannins, and other dyes to attach to your teeth and stain the surface.

You can reduce your chance of teeth staining by moderating your consumption of:

  • Coffee
  • Tea (black as well as green tea)
  • Wine (both red and white)
  • Dark Soda
  • Sauces (such as tomato, soy, and curry)
  • Berries (the darker the juice the higher the chance for stains)
  • Candy (vibrantly colored dyes can easily stain your teeth)
  • Fruit juice (the high acid content and naturally occurring chromogens in fruit juice work together to stain your teeth)
  • Tobacco (any tobacco product will quickly stain your teeth)

You don’t need to eliminate every item on this list, but consuming them in moderation is the key to avoiding teeth stains.  Give your teeth some help by drinking liquids with a straw and swishing your mouth with water after a meal.  This allows you to enjoy your favorite foods and drinks while reducing stains on your teeth.

Please note that this information helps with stains on your teeth (known as extrinsic stains) and not stains from inside your teeth (known as intrinsic stains).  If you have a certain tooth that is stained or discolored while the rest are sparkling clean you might have an intrinsic stain.  An intrinsic stain requires a visit with us because there are different reasons and different treatments for intrinsic stains.  Keep an eye out for our next blog post about intrinsic stains and what you can do about them.

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