Was It Something I Ate? Foods and Beverages That Cause Tooth Discoloration

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Teeth Whitening

Has this ever happened to you?  You check the mirror to see if there’s something stuck in between your front teeth. As you lean in for a closer look, there’s some obvious discoloration on your enamel. Instead of a sparkling, white smile, you notice that the color of your teeth is dull, slightly dark, even yellow.

If you don’t smoke, you know that common culprit of teeth stains isn’t to blame. The stains may seem particularly unexpected if you’ve had stellar oral health habits for your entire life. How did this happen? Was it something you ate?  Very possibly!  Many people don’t realize that the foods and beverages we consume every day can cause tooth discoloration. Some of our favorite dishes and drinks contain elements and compounds known as Tannins, Chromogens, and Acids that weaken teeth and stain your smile.  Here are six of the top culprits that erode the enamel of and darken the hue of your teeth.

1. Tea

Often people switch from coffee to tea in order to reduce their caffeine intake because they believe it’s a healthier alternative. Unfortunately, hot and iced teas contain a high level of acid, which wears down the enamel on your teeth. Tea also has tannins, which darken the color of your teeth. The combination of acids and tannins makes tea stain your teeth even more than coffee does.

2. Coffee

Just like coffee can stain your shirt, it also nestles into the crevices and tiny bumps on the exterior of your teeth. Coffee contains tannins and acidic ingredients, much like tea. It also includes chromogens, compounds filled with dark pigmentation that clings to your teeth. As the coffee stains settle into your teeth over time, your smile becomes less receptive to the benefits of brushing and whitening. Your teeth also become more likely to hold on to bacteria.

3. Soda

Sodas are very acidic. On the pH scale, which measures a substance’s acidity from 1 to 7 with 1 being the most acidic, colas like Pepsi are 2.5. Clear and light-colored sodas like Sierra Mist and Fresca are 3 and 3.2, respectively. Soda’s high acidity dulls your teeth,eating away at their enamel. Darker-colored sodas also contain chromogens, which stain your teeth.

4. Wine

Red wine is one of the most well-known causes of tooth discoloration. Because of its dark red color, it is rich with tannins and chromogens. What you might not know is that white wine also impacts your smile. While it doesn’t have the tannins and pigmentation of red wine, it does have a higher acidity than red wine. As a result, white wine might not stain your teeth, but it will certainly remove some of their enamel.

5. Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is another surprisingly acidic food that contributes to tooth discoloration. The sweetness of this beloved salad dressing star comes from its grape-derived elements. They mask the strong acidity of the vinegar, which ranges from 3 to 3.5 on the pH scale. Because balsamic vinegar has acidic vinegar and darkly pigmented grape components, it can stain teeth just like cola does. Balsamic vinegar will first strip away layers of enamel and then leave dark discoloration on your teeth.

6. Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes, like many fruits, are naturally acidic. But when you eat chopped tomatoes in your salad, it won’t expose your teeth to enough strong acids to cause any discoloration. However, when you eat pasta sauce, the added citric acid it contains negatively impacts the enamel on your teeth. It can also potentially leave a stain from the dark color of the sauce.


If some of the things you’re eating and drinking have caused your teeth to lose their brightness, schedule a teeth whitening consultation with Dr. Dustin Wilde at Advanced Family Dental Care in Anchorage, AK. During the appointment, he will examine the enamel of your teeth and determine whether you’re a good candidate for a take-home teeth whitening treatment or if an in office treatment is a better choice for you.