Your smile is one of your most noticeable features, whether you’re greeting new people or laughing with friends. You want your smile to light up your face, so you want to keep it looking bright, white, and healthy, but even brushing twice a day, flossing, and scheduling regular dental checkups isn’t always enough to keep your teeth white and bright. What you eat and drink also plays an important role, especially when it comes to yellowing and staining. To help you avoid dull, dingy teeth, our dentist in Cary is breaking down the foods and drinks that stain your teeth and how to prevent it.

What Causes Teeth to Stain?

Staining is a two part problem. First, foods and drinks that contain chromagens and tannins are highly pigmented and are the leading causes of yellowing and staining. However, the strength of your enamel also plays a role. If your enamel is worn, thin, or porous, stains can seep into your teeth more easily.

In fact, a diet that’s high in acidic foods – think tomatoes, citrus, coffee, and soda – can cause deterioration to the tooth enamel, leaving you more likely to experience yellow teeth and even decay over time.

Foods And Drinks That Stain Teeth

You probably won’t be surprised by the list of foods and drinks that stain your teeth and cause yellowing. After all, anything that is heavily pigmented and ingested in large quantities over time can cause your teeth to discolor. A general guideline is that if it can stain your clothes, it will probably stain your teeth, too.

That being said, here are the ones you really need to watch for:

Coffee and Tea

Coffee is a double whammy when it comes to causing your teeth to turn yellow. It’s acidic, so it can damage your enamel, plus it contains a high amount of tannins which also stain and discolor. Some people think adding cream to lighten the color will help, but it’s not the color that causes the staining, it’s the tannins that do it, and adding milk or creamer doesn’t take those away.

Tea has the same problem as coffee – it’s acidic and has tannins. It’s not just black tea that is the problem, because while it is more likely to turn your teeth yellow, green tea and herbal teas can stain your teeth a more grayish color.

Red Wine

Red wine is one of the worst foods or drinks for staining teeth. First, it’s highly pigmented with anthocyanins to give it the deep red color, it contains tannins which allow those pigments to adhere to your teeth, and it’s acidic, which etches your enamel and allows staining compounds to seep into the enamel.


Sugar-filled colas are one of the worst things for your teeth, period. The sugars feed bacteria which leads to decay, the dark brown dyes leave stains, and the phosphoric acids cause enamel to deteriorate. Even diet colas have the dye and acid, so from a staining perspective, it’s not any better than sugary cola.

Soy Sauce

While drinks are the most common source of teeth staining, it’s not the only source. If you eat sushi or other foods that are served with soy sauce, it’s best to use it in very small quantities as the deep brown color can quickly yellow your teeth. The same is true for balsamic vinegar.


While they’re certainly the healthiest item on this list, eating this food that is deeply pigmented by anthocyanin in large quantities on a regular basis can cause your teeth to discolor.

Beets and Beetroot

Beetroot is a popular superfood that is packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, but if you’ve ever cooked with it, you know how much they can leave stains.

Enjoying Your Favorite Foods and Avoiding Stains

The good news is that you don’t have to give up your favorite foods and drinks entirely (except for the soda – you should absolutely give that up!). Our dentist in Cary has some tips on how to avoid letting things like coffee, wine, or blueberries leave your smile looking less than stellar.

  • Drink through a straw to prevent letting beverages sit on your teeth for extended periods of time;
  • Drink water immediately after drinking coffee, wine, or tea to rinse the excess that’s left over;
  • Brushing your teeth after eating discoloring foods and beverages is highly effective;
  • Keep teeth cleaning snacks on hand, like apples, carrots, and celery that have a “scrubbing” effect on your teeth as you eat them, as well as being high in water content.

Correcting Stains with Teeth Whitening

If your teeth are already looking a bit yellow and dull, the only effective way to remove the stains is through professional teeth whitening. Using a peroxide-based solution, it is applied to the teeth either with a brush or by resting your teeth in custom made trays filled with the solution. The peroxide reacts with the chemical structure of the extrinsic tooth stains and breaks them down, effectively bleaching the stains from your teeth and restoring your smile.

Contact Us for Professional Teeth Whitening in Cary

We want you to feel confident when you smile, laugh, and talk to others, which is why we offer simple, highly effective teeth whitening that will help you achieve a whiter, brighter smile! To schedule an appointment, Give our dentist office in Cary a call at (919) 467-2203 or reach out to our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and you can also use a contact form to request an appointment.