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10 Common Ways You’re Staining Your Teeth

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

You’ve always wanted whiter teeth and you’ve tried all the home products from whitening strips to all the many, many toothpastes, but your teeth are still the same. Like new perfectly white trainers that you want to keep pristine, you have the avoid soaking your teeth in the proverbial mud.

Now, there are two types of staining on your teeth: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic staining is colouring of the surface of the teeth caused by colouring additives in food and drinks, smoking, exposure to certain bacteria, and poor teeth cleaning. Intrinsic staining is darkening of the inner structure of the tooth due to trauma, bruising, aging, or various reasons. This means that extrinsic staining is something you can avoid by knowing your staining foods and habits; in doing so, you can keep your teeth whiter and brighter, with or without professional tooth whitening!

1. Coffee and tea

We all love a proper brew. I can barely get through a conversation until at least my second cup of coffee. But, the drink that fuels our mornings is affecting our beauty. The tannins in coffee and tea leave a brown stain around the teeth; particularly around the front teeth and along the gums. The staining nature of tannins is so well-known that coffee and tea are regularly used as a natural DIY fabric dye.

2. Curries

As Britain’s national dish, curry night in a highlight in most households. But, have you ever considered the acidic or sugar content in it? Acidity is measured on a pH scale, where a low number is very acidic (e.g. battery acid) and a higher number is alkaline (e.g. drain unblocker). The common pH of the average curry is 6; whereas, your enamel (white outermost layer of tooth) begins to dissolve at a pH of 5.5. This leaves the delicate balance on the cusp of tipping over. Then, sugar ‘feeds’ the harmful bacteria; further weakening your tooth surface, priming it for staining and, if left unchecked, can lead to dental decay.

3. Fizzy drinks & Energy drinks

The vibrant colours that appeal to you, in combination, with the damaging sugars and acids stripping away the surface of your teeth leave the perfect scenario for plaque and stains to take hold. Use of a straw allows the drink to bypass your front teeth, minimizing the damage and time it’s in the mouth. Rinsing with water after finishing the drink can also help balance the pH of your mouth quicker. Just one can of coke has a pH of 2.52 and contains 9.75 teaspoons of sugar (39 grams of sugar). Not too far off, diet coke has a pH of 3.28. Like we said before, enamel starts dissolving at 5.5. Wait at least 20 minutes before brushing your teeth, because you could be just scrubbing the acid and sugars into your teeth and inadvertently cause more damage.

4. Wine

Wine is acidic, which causes the enamel to become more porous as it demineralizes. While white wine is comparably more acidic than red, red wine leaves a noticeable stain behind due to its tannins giving it that dark rick colouring. Love your reds anyways? Ask for a red with a lighter body to avoid the darker staining red wines.

5. Tomato sauce

My go-to comfort food is definitely spag bol. Whether you make it from scratch or get it from the shop, there will be acidic and sugary culprits that will weaken the tooth surface and allow the saturated colouring to stick. When buying from the shop, remember to check the label. Canned tomatoes are high in acidity. Jars of sauces from the shop will have added hidden sugars and preservatives, as well.

6. Hard bright coloured sweets

I’m sure you’ve already heard about the sugary nature of sweets and damaging relationship they have on your teeth. But have you ever considered, the enticing colours that stain your tongue for 20 minutes also leave their mark on your teeth? Hard sweets are usually held in your mouth for ages until they are small enough to bite through. This lengthy time sitting right next to your teeth allow the sweets to soak your tooth in coloured sugary saliva. Or, if you’re one to crunch through a giant hard sweet, it could fracture the tips of your teeth or fillings, leaving cracks for bacteria and stains to take hold.

7. Berries

Although healthy and delicious as one of your five-a-day, berries have natural sugars and a relatively high acidic content. Google ‘berry stain’ and you’ll get a 32.7 million results, most of them about the frustration of being unable to remove staining in your carpet or shirt after an unfortunate berry incident. Generally, if it’ll stain your carpet, it’ll stain your teeth.

8. Smoking

A now a well-known side effect of smoking, tobacco staining is one of the leading culprits in extrinsic staining. Yellow, brown or black stains usually appear around the front teeth where the habit holds the cigarette, in the pits and fissures of the back teeth, and along the gum line. As this is usually a daily habit, smokers will find that stains will return quickly after teeth polishing or whitening unless the habit is broken.

Of course, there are many other detrimental effects to your oral and general health with tobacco smoking.

9. Home teeth-polishing

There’s SO MUCH to say about home teeth whitening or polishing products that are so often bought online. First off, I’d like to say there are good products out there, but it takes the right product and the right technique to achieve a successful result. However, there are many ‘whitening’ and polishing products out there rely on abrasive materials to scrub off the extrinsic staining on your teeth; at the same time, they are also scrapping at your enamel. This abrasive action can leave tiny grooves that are more likely to stain in the future.

Be wary of products available online. In the UK, it’s illegal to provide whitening without a registered dentist’s prescription. There are many ‘whitening products’ online that do not have any active whitening agents in their formula at all, while claiming to whiten naturally with little to no scientific proof to support that.

10. Not flossing

If you’re not flossing as part of your regular teeth cleaning routine, you’re missing out on approximately 40% of your teeth! Over time, 40% builds up to a lot! Foods or dental plaque (a sticky, white or pale yellow film which is home to over 1000 different bacteria) get caught between teeth, which catch and soak all the staining pigments into your teeth.

A great way to find out where your extrinsic stains are coming from is to keep a mouth diary for a week or two. Include everything you eat and drink, when you brush your teeth or floss, and any other habits you do (e.g. chewing a pen, etc.). At the end of the week, review it by yourself (or if you would like, we can arrange to review it together through video call) and usually it’s quite obvious what the big culprits causing your staining are.

Contact me for to discuss how we can brighten your smile!

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