Nothing can be more frustrating for our patients than trying to achieve a perfectly white smile. Because teeth are prone to staining over time, even whitening your teeth with professional dental treatments may result in yellowing within a few months. This is because food and drinks that have tannins, darker pigments, or high acidic content cause teeth stains either on the surface of the tooth or below the tooth enamel.
The good news is that whitening your teeth naturally is easier with smarter food choices. Here we take a look at foods that whiten teeth, foods that can stain teeth, and why your teeth might not be as white as you’d like.
Foods That Whiten Teeth
Here are 10 foods that whiten teeth and support overall health and wellbeing:
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. However, the same may be true of dentists. When you chew apples, they scrub your teeth. The high concentration of malic acid in apples is actually found in many kinds of toothpaste because it increases saliva, helping clean teeth and remove stains.
Another reason to eat broccoli! Because broccoli is high in fiber, it can actually help decrease inflammation in your mouth. You have to eat it raw to get the cleaning and polishing benefits. The iron in broccoli also helps prevent bacteria-caused enamel erosion, further protecting your teeth from stains.
Cheese is an excellent snack choice for foods that whiten teeth as it contains healthy calcium and phosphorous to keep your teeth strong. As well, the protein in cheese protects your tooth enamel while the lactic acid helps prevent tooth decay. Last but not least, this dairy snack stimulates saliva, helping to clean your teeth.
We have often told you to avoid dried fruit as its stickiness can be just as bad as candy on your teeth. However, when it comes to raisins, they actually help clean your mouth, especially when enjoyed with bran cereals. Raisins are another food that stimulates saliva, so eating them helps prevent plaque, stains, and cavities. The saliva neutralizes the acidic environment most foods cause, which contributes to mouth bacteria, so they make an excellent snack choice.
Like apples, strawberries contain malic acid. Strawberries actually have bleaching properties that can reduce the appearance of stains. They also increase saliva, so strawberries are a great choice if you take medicines that create dry mouth. This is important because you need saliva to protect against tooth decay, which also contributes to discolouration. Just don’t apply strawberries directly to your teeth as this can actually eat away at your enamel.
This sweet summer treat is packed with even more malic acid than strawberries, so it is even better at teeth whitening and saliva production. Watermelon also has fibre, like broccoli and apples, that can potentially help scrub your teeth to assist in removing stains.
Drinking water is the healthiest beverage choice for many reasons, but it also promotes saliva production. As we keep pointing out, saliva is needed to help keep your teeth whiter, so sipping water during the day, and also rinsing with water after meals to remove food debris, is a great boost to keep teeth white.
Not only is pineapple delicious, but it also dissolves pellicle. What is pellicle, you might ask? Pellicle is a layer of salivary proteins that protects your teeth, but unfortunately also absorbs food pigments that stain your teeth. While it protects your teeth, bacteria tend to stick to it, which can cause staining and plaque buildup. However, the proteolytic enzyme called bromelain found in pineapple actually dissolves pellicle as it breaks down proteins found in your pellicle layer.
Another tropical favourite, papaya also contains a proteolytic enzyme called papain. Papain is just as good as bromelain at breaking down proteins to help reduce stains and protect your teeth from plaque build-up.
As with cheese, milk contains lactic acid which can help lighten your enamel. It also helps produce saliva to wash away bacteria. Milk contains a protein called casein, which can prevent staining and plaque build-up by using calcium phosphates. Casein is especially effective if you tend to drink tea because it binds to polyphenols in tea so that the staining tannins can’t stick to your teeth. Yogurt has a similar effect, so if you don’t like milk, this is an alternative.
Foods That Stain Your Teeth
While you can enjoy these foods that whiten teeth, you should also reduce the foods and beverages that stain your teeth, including:
- Dark Berries
- Tomato-Based Sauces
- Black Tea
- Red Wine
- Dark Cola
- Fruit Juice
- Energy Drinks
A simple tip is to use a straw if you insist on drinking teeth-staining beverages, so the drink bypasses your teeth and goes right down your throat. Another tip is to avoid drinking your tea and coffee black. When you add milk or cream it reduces the darkness of the liquid.
Why Are My Teeth Stained Even When I Whiten?
One of the biggest challenges of achieving the ideal whiteness for your teeth is that colour is very subjective. What might seem like artificial, unnatural white to one person could be considered the ideal level of whiteness to another. However, there is more at play when it comes to teeth colour and staining.
First, the bright white teeth most people aspire to are actually very rare or non-existent naturally. This is because people have their own shade of tooth colour that can range from tones of yellow or brown to more greyish tinges. As well, tooth discolourations are not always related to stains. You can have tooth discolouration caused by medications, medical treatments, or tooth trauma. There are three categories of tooth discolouration:
- Extrinsic Teeth Stains: This refers to surface stains caused by pigments from food and drink, or a build-up in the film of protein covering tooth enamel. This can be treated effectively with brushing and regular dental cleaning.
- Intrinsic Teeth Stains: These stains are below the surface and accumulate within the tooth enamel. In this case, you will require bleaching using professional or at-home tooth whitening products.
- Age-Related Teeth Stains: Over time you accumulate both intrinsic and extrinsic tooth discolouration as your dentin naturally yellows with age and your enamel thins. Professional whitening is usually the only option for dark age-related staining.