About the author: Dr. Joseph Zelig, D.D.S., is a Board Certified Periodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology. A practicing periodontist, speaker and educator, Dr. Zelig is currently practicing at Smile in the City located in Manhattan, New York.
Nothing says, “Hello!” like a bright, white smile. White teeth are not only nice to look at, they are also a sign of good dental health. And while most of us are born with a nice set of pearly whites, as we age our teeth are introduced to a variety of foods and drinks that leave a lasting mark.
Thanks to a surge in popularity there are many ways to whiten teeth with gels, toothpastes and professional bleaching. But remember, these are not magical potions. Keeping your teeth free from stains in the first place should be your priority. No amount of bleaching and in-office whitening will keep your teeth white if you continue to discolor through eating and drinking.
Here are the main foods to avoid for a whiter smile:
This is not a surprise but it’s still not easy to hear. Coffee is popular worldwide and the morning beverage of choice for many people. The truth is, however, dark pigments from coffee stain the microscopic pits in your enamel, and the blacker you take your coffee the darker the stain becomes. You can counteract the effects by rinsing your mouth with water after every sip or brushing immediately afterward, but giving it up completely offers the best results.
Tea is often seen as the healthier alternative to coffee, but unfortunately it produces the same stubborn staining effect. Tea tannins are the main culprits here, but just like coffee there are ways to lessen the damage to your enamel. In addition to swishing water in your mouth after every sip, try and stick to lighter teas such as herbal and white varieties. While they still have a staining effect, they are much less potent than black teas.
Red wine is also full of tannins and its red and purple tones are not conducive to a whitening strategy. Although some studies promote a proven benefit of reduced gum inflammation, red wine still contains acids that affect the enamel. The difference with this beverage is that wine tasters tend to swirl it around and leave it in their mouths for a period of time. This extra exposure is what causes your teeth to stain. Try to follow each sip with some water, or if possible, drink your wine through a straw.
We all know how bad sugary colas are for oral health, and the same acid and chromogens lead to serious staining as well. There are many other harmful staining substances in cola, such as flavor additives, so avoiding cola altogether is a smart idea for a whiter smile and an overall healthier mouth. Aside from an enjoyable taste, about which opinions vary, colas don’t offer too many benefits for the human body. Try a cold glass of water instead.
Hard Candy and Gum
Continued exposure is white teeth’s worst enemy, and hard candy and gum are often left in the mouth for a long time. As the sugar breaks down the enamel, the artificial dyes of a sweet treat are free to stain and cause permanent damage over time. There is a wide variety of sugar- and dye-free gums on the market that offer all of the great taste and none of the tooth damage and staining. Giving up candy and gum is usually much easier than coffee, tea or wine.
If you need to brush after eating or drinking acidic foods, be sure to wait around 30 minutes until your enamel is ready to handle a brushing. A solid routine of brushing and flossing is the cornerstone of any tooth whitening routine, so be sure to stay on top of your cleaning regimen. As with any new program, start off by reducing your intake of these teeth-stainers and see how it goes. Once you start seeing results you will thank yourself!
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