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What foods stain teeth the most?

Stained teeth can have an outsized impact on the average person's social confidence, oral hygiene and mental health. If you're sensitive to being judged for the condition or look of your smile, you might be less likely to pursue certain opportunities in life, whether personally or professionally, however unfortunate that sounds.

Though there are numerous factors that may be at the root of tooth discoloration, some of the most common issues can be attributed to the particular food and drinks we enjoy.

The good news is that our lifestyle choices and eating behaviours are largely under our control, meaning taking steps to prevent teeth staining can be as easy as putting down one food item and picking up another instead.

Let's look at several of the food and drinks to be mindful of, and some potential alternatives that can help produce healthier smiles:

Coffee and tea

Darkly coloured teas, like the classic black breakfast tea, are a primary culprit of discoloration. And because tea is such a common fixture of so many cultures, it may be ingested multiple times a day. Each of those drinks – though splendid, no doubt – can contribute to continued discoloration over time.

Similarly, coffee, the third-most consumed beverage in the world – behind water and tea – can stain teeth due to its dark colour and acidic content when sugar and sweeteners are added. Coffee can actually cause teeth to become more porous, essentially opening additional pathways for stains to take hold.

Reducing intake of coffee and tea, or switching to lighter varieties, can help stem the spread of stains.


Although berries and other fruits provide vital nutrients and are healthy sources of naturally occurring vitamins, they should still be enjoyed only in measured quantities.

In the case of oral hygiene, fruits have seeds and pits that can get lodged between teeth or in cavities and fractures. Berries, specifically, are highly acidic and can weaken tooth enamel.

As enamel is stripped away, it is not replaced. This reality causes teeth to be even more at risk of discoloration and a host of other mouth-related issues.

Next time you're craving that sugary citrus flavour, reach for white grapes instead.

Soft drinks and sports drinks

It's no secret that high-sugar carbonated drinks have long been the bane of the nutrition and dental hygiene industry. Though some sports drinks are marketed as value-adds to athletes – due to their concentration of electrolytes – the average person doesn't benefit much from their consumption.

The amount of sugar and acid in each drink can quickly pack in empty calories, erode teeth and cause higher levels of inflammation throughout the body. Teeth inevitably become softer and weaker over time.

More broadly, soft drinks of any type cause some form of discoloration. Today's seltzer craze, however, may help defray the consumption of soft drinks. Although seltzer water, when consumed by itself, can impact pH levels in the body, and thus staining teeth, it's not as damaging to teeth and has very little effect if consumed with meals.

Soy sauce

If you favour soy sauce's salty tang, you may want to find an alternative. Soy sauce's dark colour and acidity make it a potent staining agent, as do other types of sauces, like curry and tomato.

Creamier, lighter-coloured sauces, however, may be better options.

Red wine

Everyone's aware of the dreaded "wine teeth." Setting aside its lively upsides, deep-red, rich wines quickly stain teeth and can leave permanent discoloration particularly close to the gum line.

You could switch to white wine (or other alcoholic beverages) or aim to use a straw next time.


The combination of sugar, fun flavours and savvy advertising make sweets a difficult food group to avoid, especially for children.

Just think: Some sweets temporarily change the colour of your tongue or leave behind a tasty residue in your mouth long after they've been consumed. That means it's going to stick on and stain your teeth as well.

And because sweets can be so addictive, it's easy to consume them in large quantities. Avoiding a sweet tooth may be difficult, so limiting your sweets intake as much as possible may be the more conducive option for a lot of people.

Do you have questions on teeth stains and what to do about them? Some solutions are easier and more sustainable than others, but the truth is that avoiding certain food and drinks in the first place is probably your best bet.

If you're specifically concerned about existing tooth discoloration, teeth whitening might be a beneficial option.

Professional teeth whitening services are harmless, efficient and long-lasting. To speak with the team at City Dentists, call 04 978 4964 or book an appointment online.

Smile wide!

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