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In the battle to keep our teeth at their whitest, prevention plays a vital part. Certain foods and habits are notoriously bad for straining teeth. Some may be obvious, but there are a few “sneaky” foods and beverages that are not themselves brightly (or darkly) colored, yet which cause significant tooth discoloration. How? Acidity.
Acidic foods and beverages encourage staining by eroding the dental enamel, temporarily softening teeth and making it easier for chromogens (colored compounds) to latch on. A family of food compounds known as tannins also promote staining, by further boosting the chromogens’ ability to attach to enamel.
Which foods, beverages, and habits affect the whiteness of teeth the most?
1. Smoking. Cigarette smoke can stain drapes, walls, and just about anything it comes into contact with. Your teeth are no exception, and repeated use of cigarettes will cause dark nicotine stains.
2. Wine. Red wine contains chromogens and tannins, as well as being acidic, making it a class-A stainer. White wine, too, promotes staining. In a study conducted recently at New York University School of Dentistry, teeth exposed to tea were stained more severely if they previously had been exposed to white wine.
3. Black Tea. Black tea is very rich in tannins. Dentists say it stains worse than coffee, a little-known fact. Other forms of tea (green or herbal) are less hard on the teeth.
4. Cola. Acidic and chromogen-rich, dark colas are a notorious stainer. But even light-colored soft drinks are acidic enough to promote staining from other foods and beverages (as well as causing a ton of cavities!)
5. Sports drinks. Recent research has shown that sports drinks, like soda, soften tooth enamel.
6. Berries. Blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, cherries, grapes, pomegranates, and other intensely colored fruits can all cause stains.
7. Sauces. Soy sauce, tomato sauce, curry sauce, and other strongly-colored sauces can also cause you to need to whiten your teeth.
8. Sweets. Hard candies, chewing gum, popsicles, and other sweets often contain bright dyes (as you can see by the way they frequently stain the tongue); however, they are unlikely to cause staining unless consumed quite regularly.
But my teeth are already stained; what is the best method of teeth whitening?
Your dentist can offer you various whitening procedures, but usually they are all quite costly. It’s more practical to try an at-home whitening kit; they are inexpensive, effective, and very safe if used properly. Home whitening kits can easily be bought online from venues such as TeethWhiteningKits2You.co.uk. (As a word of caution, however, never use a whitening kit if you have cavities or cracked teeth! If your teeth are damaged, see your dentist and have the appropriate repairs done before you attempt to whiten your teeth in any way.)