12 surprising foods that will turn your teeth yellow, according to dentists

Teeth stain
Gummy candies are both artificially colored and stick to your teeth, making them a prime teeth-staining food. Fernanda Puram / EyeEm / Getty Images
  • Coffee and tea stain your teeth because they contain compounds like polyphenols that can penetrate your enamel.
  • Dark-colored sodas are extremely acidic and artificially colored, which can make your teeth yellow.
  • To prevent staining, be sure to brush and floss regularly and rinse your mouth out with water after eating or drinking.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

The enamel, or outer layer of your teeth, helps protect your teeth from cavities and wear and tear from chewing, but it can’t always fend off stains.

This is because your enamel is porous, meaning that it can soak up the colorful pigments in your foods or drinks, leading to stains.

Here are 12 of the most common tooth-staining foods and drinks:

Teeth-staining foods and drinks

Turns out, you can sometimes tell which foods will stain your teeth just by their color. That’s because brightly colored food often contains stronger pigments that are the main culprits when it comes to tooth stains.

“Anything that your mom would yell at you for spilling on the white tablecloth will stain your teeth,” says Matthew Messina, DDS, a professor of dental practice at Ohio State University.

More acidic foods and drinks are also likely to stain your teeth, says Mark Burhenne, DDS, a dentist in private practice. This is because acids can weaken your enamel and make it more porous, allowing stains to soak in.

Here are 12 common foods and drinks that can stain your teeth:

1. Coffee contains organic compounds called polyphenols that create its brown color, says Burhenne. Polyphenols can penetrate and attach to your enamel, making your teeth gradually take on a browner color.

2. Tea contains tannins, a type of polyphenol that often has a yellow or brownish color. When tannins penetrate your enamel, they often create a greenish or greyish hue in your teeth, Burhenne says.

3. Red wine contains tannins and red pigments that come from the skin and seeds of grapes. Red wine stains act much like coffee, Burhenne says, penetrating into your enamel.

4. Tomato sauces are acidic, which can gradually wear away tooth enamel. When this happens, “the red color is taken up in the enamel as it becomes more porous,” Messina says.

5. Berries: “Berries are often dark colored, same as red wines,” Messina says. For this reason, the strong pigments found in fruits like raspberries and blueberries can stay behind on your enamel.

6. Fruit juice: More pigmented fruit juices like cranberry or pomegranate juice are generally the worst when it comes to stains on your teeth, Burhenne says. Many fruit juices like orange or lemon juice may also be very acidic, allowing pigments to stain more deeply.

7. Beets contain red and purple pigments called betalains, which are powerful staining agents, Burhenne says.

8. Curry may be one of the most strongly staining foods, Burhenne says. This is because curry contains a yellow pigment called curcumin that was historically used to dye clothing because of how good it was at staining material.

9. Dark-colored sodas: “Carbonated beverages have a very acidic pH, which can dissolve tooth enamel,” Messina says. For example, the pH of Coca Cola is 2.4, nearly the same acidity as lemon juice. On top of this, cola gets its color from artificial coloring agents called chromogens, which can stain your teeth a yellow color.

10. Balsamic vinegar: “Balsamic vinegar is a highly pigmented product, and its acidity mildly etches the tooth surface, making it more prone to staining,” Burhenne says.

11. Soy sauce has dark brown pigments that can stain your teeth. Sauces like soy sauce may also be especially staining because they are highly concentrated, Burhenne says.

12. Gummy candies contain artificial coloring that may stain teeth, but they may be especially staining because of their texture. Sticky foods are harder to remove and they discolor teeth as they hang around without being removed,” Messina says.

Insider’s takeaway

There are many foods and drinks that can stain your teeth because of their strong pigments and acids, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid them completely.

“The key is not in avoiding all colored foods and drinks, but in brushing and flossing regularly to keep the teeth healthy and clean,” Messina says. You can also rinse your mouth out with water after eating or drinking if you don’t have access to a toothbrush right away.

Be careful not to brush more than three times per day, as this can wear away your enamel, “but simply rinsing out your mouth with water after dinner is a step toward avoiding stains,” Messina says.

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