We all want brilliantly white teeth and a dazzling smile, but there are tons of culprits—and no, not just coffee or wine—that can cause unwanted surface stains. If you'd like your pearliest possible whites on display for the coming weeks of holiday parties and selfie opportunities, keep reading for some truly surprising reasons why your teeth aren’t as white as they could be. Then say cheese!
With cold and flu season ahead, this is a really good one to know: Cough syrup is a leading source of teeth discoloration. Because we’re more prone to take it at night right before bed in order to ensure a good night’s sleep, and it’s often a dark red, blue, or purple color, the syrup has the chance to sit on the surface of our teeth all night long, causing stains.
Not only that, many cough syrups contain alcohol (not to mention sugar), which dries our mouths, resulting in less saliva. Saliva helps to dilute and wash down the substances that stain our teeth.
Avoid cough syrup-related discoloration by taking the syrup an hour or so before bedtime, and brush your teeth after, not before, you take it. Even better, take a cough suppressant in the form of a pill to avoid contact with teeth altogether.
Fruits like blueberries, blackberries, and pomegranates have a high potential to stain teeth. This is because darker berries contain compounds called chromogens, which are pigment-producing substances that readily stick to tooth enamel.
The risk of stains also extends to pies and tarts made from berries, which are in heavy rotation this time of year! When indulging in fruit pies over the holidays (apple doesn’t count), be sure to wash those delicious bites down with water.
Your favorite vodka sauce may be delicious, but it’s also another high-chromogen food, and therefore, a tooth-staining one. If you’re trying to get whiter teeth, opt for lighter-colored sauces or use olive oil and a dash of salt on your pasta instead. The same goes for soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. If you’re going to be ingesting deeply pigmented foods and sauces with staining capability and want to be extra vigilant, swish water around in your mouth in between bites to prevent the sauce from sticking to the surface of your teeth.
Who would think that swigging Gatorade after a workout could lead to tooth damage and stains? Sport and energy drinks can quickly erode tooth enamel, which results in a higher susceptibility to stains. Because of the sugar content of these drinks, you’re better off hydrating with water or coconut water than a crazy-colored sports drink—for both your weight and your teeth.
You probably know that dark, almost black cola—similar to coffee and black tea—isn’t great for maintaining white teeth, but did you know that it’s not limited to dark-colored soda? A completely clear soda, like Sprite, is just as stain-inducing, because of the insanely high acid content in soda that’s akin to battery acid.
Your antibiotics might also be a reason for yellow teeth. The antibiotics tetracycline, minocycline, and doxycycline, which are commonly prescribed and used to treat an array of issues from bacterial and urinary tract infections to acne and other skin conditions, are associated with teeth discoloration.
The combination of high contents of acid and lemon in lemonade does a number on our teeth. Acid wears down the enamel layer, and when enamel is worn down it exposes the underlying dentin layer of teeth, which can become yellow and dark in color. To avoid decay, always try to sip highly acidic beverages through a straw, to minimize direct contact with teeth.
You know how sucking on hard candy turns your tongue a different color? The pigment from the candy does the same thing to your teeth. If you’re addicted to lollipops and lifesavers, you might want to cut back on your hard candy consumption.
It’s not exactly understood why, but antihistamines like Benadryl are another unexpected cause of tooth discoloration.
Did you know that these things cause tooth discoloration? Do you have any DIY teeth-whitening remedies you swear by? Tell us in the comments!