With World Oral Health Day upon us, we’re once again being bombarded with reminders to brush and floss regularly to maintain high levels of oral hygiene. While brushing regularly certainly helps maintain oral hygiene, how exactly do you go about preventing those tooth stains in the first place?
While smoking and chewing tobacco are the most obvious causes of staining teeth, there are plenty of foods and drinks that can be just as bad. Here are some of the worst offenders.
Foods & Drinks That Will Stain Your Teeth
1. Tea & Coffee
Yes, this comes as a bummer to every Indian, for how would any of us survive a working day without those cups of tea or coffee? It almost makes you abandon your hopes for having white teeth, because there’s no way you’re giving up your ‘cutting’. Fortunately, the staining problem isn’t as bad if you avoid black tea and coffee, as milk dilutes these effects and as a bonus it also gives you some healthy calcium. If you’re still worried about tooth stains, switch to lighter colored varieties and herbal teas like green tea.
2. Soy Sauce
Despite our strained relations with our northern neighbors, we certainly can’t live without their food, or rather, our desi variations of Chinese food. Soy sauce features prominently in Chinese dishes and as an add on, and it’s a sauce we sometimes are quite liberal with. Soy sauce is one of the worst foods for tooth stains however. According to dentists, and common sense, a food that leaves ‘hard to get rid of’ stains on your fabrics is also going to stain your teeth. Besides, soy sauce is unhealthily high in sodium.
Yes, as healthy as fruits may be, they can exacerbate the problem of tooth staining. Berries like blackberries and raspberries, as well as fruits like grapes and pomegranates have a high content of chromogens, which are pigment producing substances that tend to cling to tooth enamel. They are also found in cherries, grapes, and tomatoes. According to some sources, citric fruits like oranges and limes can also contribute to the problem because of their acidic nature. As these are among the healthiest of foods, we’d advise you to keep eating them, but make sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly after eating any of these fruits.
4. Tomato Ketchup
Who can resist dousing their patties and fried eggs with ketchup? We’re also quite liberal in our use of tomato sauces with pastas, but the fact is, all tomato-based sauces will stain your teeth. The good news is, you can continue to enjoy your ketchup, just try to eat some leafy greens like lettuce, spinach or broccoli just before you use tomato sauce, as they form a protective film over the teeth, reducing the risk of staining.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but this staple in Indian cuisine has a really bad reputation when it comes to staining teeth. This should come as no surprise, as you’ve probably ruined a few of your clothes with turmeric based curries! While turmeric does contain great antimicrobial properties that can help protect your dental health, it is also one of the worst ingredients for anyone looking to keep their teeth white. Instead of avoiding turmeric, which is anyway not much of an option in India, make it a point to brush your teeth as soon as you wolf down that spicy curry.
Red wine is becoming increasingly popular in India and there’s little doubt about its health benefits for your heart, but it’s not the best drink for your teeth. Wine is made from fruits that contain natural dyes, acids, and tannins, which is why it can stain your teeth quite rapidly. Contrary to popular belief, white wine is actually worse for tooth stains because of its higher acidic content. We’d advise you to stick with the red wine, but make it a point to brush your teeth before drinking, as red wine clings to dental plaque. You can also swish some water in your mouth between glasses, or better still, drink with a straw! We’d also advise you not ditch red wine because it can actually boost dental health, as studies show that it has anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent or reduce incidence of gum disease.
Whether it’s regular coke, diet soda, or any other aerated beverage you drink, it is bad for your teeth. The darker colas are worse because of artificial colors that increase staining, but all aerated drinks contain phosphoric and citric acids, which cause erosion of tooth enamel, while the sweeteners increase the risk of tooth decay. If you can’t give up your soda habit soon enough, we’d advise you to at least start sipping on it with a straw.
8. Energy Drinks
If you thought sports drinks are any better than colas and sodas, you’re sadly mistaken. According to some studies, energy drinks may be even more harmful to your teeth than regular sodas. Consuming energy drinks regularly has been found to weaken and damage dental tissue. This is believed to occur because of the cocktail of additives, sugars, and acidic ingredients used in most sports drinks.
9. Gola And Slushies
There’s scarcely a kid in India who hasn’t delighted in the joys of golas during our unbearably hot summers. If you turn your nose up at roadside hawkers and prefer slushies in malls, the verdict is no better when it comes to dental health. While the purple, orange, and red colors that coat your lips and tongue may be fun to kids, it’s no fun for your teeth. The artificial colors in golas and slushies will leave stubborn stains on your teeth. Instead of going for those colorful varieties, opt for a natural fresh lemon ice slushie or gola.
If you’ve ever handled a beetroot, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Beets are a superfood, but they also have staining superpowers. Their dark hues are associated with high antioxidant content and pigments called betacyanins, all of which makes beets so healthy. If we had to sacrifice some whiteness of the teeth for the health benefits of beet, we’d choose the latter, but you may not have to make such a choice. Simply make sure to brush your teeth soon after eating beets, so that the stains don’t have enough time to form
Tips To Keep Your Teeth White
In addition to drinking with a straw, and brushing and rinsing your mouth after consuming food and beverages that leave stains, you can also use these ingredients to keep your pearly whites white.
1. Apples And Pears
Apples and pears are the best foods for your teeth because of their high fiber content and the type of fiber that they contain. Pectin, a fiber in both fruit works like a tooth exfoliant, scrubbing stains off the teeth.
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda is potent natural whitener for your teeth and you can use it on your toothbrush like a paste to brush the teeth. Avoid regular use however, as it is abrasive and excessive use can remove more than stains – it will also damage tooth enamel.
This may seem like a contradiction, because of the citric acid in strawberries, but it’s true. As strawberries ripen, citric acid content decreases, as compared to the gentler malic acid. This helps to remove some amount of staining, but it should be kept to a minimum.
Finally, there’s one high calorie food that makes it to the list! According to some studies, cheese intake may increase oral pH levels, reducing the risk of cavities.
Water isn’t just the best fluid to stay hydrated, it’s also great for dental health. Studies show that good intake of water, especially fluoridated water, can help improve dental health and reduces the risk of tooth decay.
We hope that this information helps you make better food choices and reduces your risk of dental problems. Nevertheless, tooth decay and staining is sometimes unavoidable, in which case you should make it a point to visit a dentist, no matter how unappealing the prospect may be.
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February 20, 2018