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Are Your Favorite Healthy Foods Staining Your Teeth?

Local dentist Angela Austin breaks down the dietary culprits that could be dulling your smile—and the results might surprise you.

As a dentist, Alexandria-based Dr. Angela Austin gets a lot of questions from patients and friends alike about taking care of their chompers. The most common one, unsurprisingly, is, “How can I get whiter teeth?”

“To answer this question, I tend to focus on overall health,” Austin says. “After all, health and beauty go hand in hand.” We all know the basic drill: brush, floss, avoid smoking. But Austin says diet can also play a huge role in the aesthetics of your smile—and the tooth-staining culprits might not be what you think.

According to Austin, a good rule of thumb is that any food or drink that may stain your laundry will stain your teeth. “Intensely pigmented molecules tend to stick to dental enamel,” she explains.

Yes, these veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals—but that deep red hue can cling to hands, clothes, and teeth.
Other culprits: Blueberries, pomegranates, and blackberries

Red wine
This, too, has health perks, but its acidic nature and deeply pigmented molecules can cause staining and enamel erosion. “Weakened, thin enamel is more susceptible to staining, so avoid foods and drinks that tend to erode enamel,” Austin says. If you are going to drink a dark beverage, Austin suggests using a straw, which will help you avoid discoloring your front teeth.
Other culprits: Coffee, dark-colored teas, and sports drinks

“Unfortunately, many of the culprits for teeth staining are actually packed with rich antioxidants and are healthy for our bodies,” Austin says. “It’s okay to enjoy a glass of red wine or pomegranate juice—just be sure to rinse with water or brush your teeth afterward.”

Tweaking your diet for whiter teeth is “more a practice of avoiding stain-causing foods and drinks than eating foods that are teeth whiteners,” Austin says. But by munching on these types of foods, we can remove plaque-causing bacteria from our teeth, resulting in a brighter smile.

Crunchy fruits and veggies
“They function as an abrasive scrub for your teeth,” says Austin. “They also have high water content, which stimulates saliva to help wash away bacteria.”
Try: Celery, cauliflower, apples, carrots, pears, and strawberries

“Chewing sugarless gum is a great saliva producer,” Austin says. The more saliva there is in your mouth, the less likely acid will be present to attack your enamel.

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  • Thanks so much for all the food tips. Now I know what I could eat (and avoid eating) to have whiter teeth.

  • White teeth can't only be maintained through brushing your teeth. Your lifestyle and eating habit also plays a huge role in keeping your teeth white and fresh. You can brush your teeth all you want, but if you smoke or drink, there's still a huge chance that it'll be stained.

  • Apples are the fruit that my mother always buys from the grocery. No wonder I still have a white teeth.

  • It is such a pain to avoid your favorite foods, but for the sake of your dental health, you need to. However, there are alternative and healthy foods to satisfy your cravings. In addition to these foods, cheese is also a healthy food for whiter teeth. It speeds the neutralization of acid and re-mineralization of enamel. It is also high in calcium and phosphorous which are good nutrients for teeth.

  • This places the phrase 'watching what you eat' under a whole new perspective -- that is, by being mindful in your consumption of food or drink that may stain your teeth. In instances when your meal does include such tooth-staining food, just make it a point to immediately rinse off your mouth after the meal. Creating a list of food and drink that may stain your teeth is a good idea. This can be a handy reference the next time that you dine out.

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