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9 Things That Stain Your Teeth in the Summer

Summer is synonymous with backyard barbecues and farmer's markets, but some of the tastiest and healthiest summertime treats can leave your pearly whites looking dull and dingy.

Summer-Foods-and-(One-Favorite-Activity)-that-Can-Stain-Your-TeethLarisa Blinova/shutterstock

Berries

Whether enjoyed by the handful or in a freshly baked pie, berries are high in disease-fighting antioxidants and rich in flavonoids, the nutrients that give them their rich colors and help to protect against heart disease, inflammation, and cancer. Along with all the good stuff, berries also contain chromogens, intensely pigmented compounds that stick to the teeth enamel, which can cause staining. “Berries are super healthy,” says New York-based Victoria Veytsman, DDS, “so don’t stop eating them.” She suggests rinsing your mouth with water right after eating them or brushing your teeth 30 minutes after eating to reduce the staining effect. Watch out for these other “healthy” habits that damage your teeth.

Summer-Foods-and-(One-Favorite-Activity)-that-Can-Stain-Your-TeethElena Veselova/shutterstock

Iced tea

After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world and in 2016 Americans drank 84 billion servings of the beverage, opting for iced tea 80 percent of the time. Tea has many health benefits, ranging from reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer to helping with weight loss and slowing age-related memory decline. Tea also contains tannins, plant-based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to teeth. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up your favorite summertime beverage altogether. To reduce the chance of staining, Mazen Natour, DMD, a New York-based prosthodontist, suggests using a straw. “Using a straw will shoot the tea through your mouth without having it hit your teeth,” he says. Make sure you know the easiest way to clean your teeth without brushing them.

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Citrus fruit

While citrus is loaded with vitamin C, which can fight off colds and aid in fat burning, too much can affect your teeth. Excessive citrus fruit consumption or habits such as sucking on lemon, lime, or orange wedges and letting them touch your teeth can make your teeth more susceptible to staining, explains Dr. Natour. “Over time, the acidity from citrus fruit will erode the enamel, creating small perforations and creating an entry for more staining.” Check out these other 37 secrets your dentist isn’t telling you.

Summer-Foods-and-(One-Favorite-Activity)-that-Can-Stain-Your-TeethOleksandra Naumenko/shutterstock

Sangria

Red wine and its key ingredient resveratrol has been shown to help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, and prevent blood clots, but it also contains tannins, and allowing it to linger too long in your mouth can lead to stains on your teeth that are difficult to remove. Adding citrus to red wine to create sangria, a favorite summer cocktail, ups the staining potential. “Sangria is a double whammy for staining,” says Dr. Natour. “Drink it with a straw, but carefully.” Find out how to get a red wine stain off your teeth.

Summer-Foods-and-(One-Favorite-Activity)-that-Can-Stain-Your-TeethElena Veselova/shutterstock

Iced coffee

Starting the day with an iced coffee is a summertime ritual for some, but coffee is a potent stain offender. “If you have ever left coffee in a cup, you will notice that it picks up the stain over time—that’s what happens to your teeth,” says Dr. Veytsman. While iced coffee and hot coffee are equal in their staining ability, you can put a straw in iced coffee and drink it to lessen the staining effect—you can’t do that with hot coffee. Try these other tricks that will save your teeth from coffee stains.

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Popsicles

Summer and popsicles go hand in hand, and for kids (and adults), and watching your tongue turn bright red, purple, or blue is part of the fun of eating them. “Popsicles are made with artificial color that will stain your teeth, and they are also loaded with sugar, which makes them stickier and increases your chance of getting cavities,” says Dr. Veytsman. The fact that you keep the Popsicles in your mouth for an extended period of time, increases the staining factor. She suggests healthier frozen treats that are free of added sugar and artificial dyes as an alternative.

Summer-Foods-and-(One-Favorite-Activity)-that-Can-Stain-Your-TeethElena Veselova/shutterstock

Barbecue sauce

Sweet, spicy, and sticky, barbecue sauce is a staple condiment at summertime backyard gatherings. Whether you prefer it on chicken or ribs, the tangy sauce may contain dyes that can discolor your teeth and its acidic composition, which often contains tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar, can break down the enamel on your teeth. The best way to avoid staining is to reduce the time the sauce stays on your teeth, says Dr. Veytsman. “Rinse your mouth with water after you eat but don’t brush your teeth right after—wait 30 minutes or you will rub the stains into the enamel.” Those stains shouldn’t stress you too much though—this is why yellow teeth are stronger than white ones.

Summer-Foods-and-(One-Favorite-Activity)-that-Can-Stain-Your-TeethJoshua Resnick/shutterstock

Soda

While studies have shown that excessive consumption of cola can seriously erode the enamel on your teeth, drinking carbonated beverages, even in moderate amounts, can harm your teeth and your health. Soda is acidic and can wear away tooth enamel, and the dark brown pigments in cola can cling to your teeth’s enamel and turn them yellow. “Soda or anything bubbly or fizzy can erode the enamel on your teeth,” says Dr. Natour. “Enamel is 10 times harder than bone, but we only have a small amount of it, and once it is gone it cannot be replaced.” Without it, our teeth are more susceptible to developing cavities, sensitivity, and becoming discolored. Learn about 15 other foods dentists never eat—so you shouldn’t either.

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Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar drizzled over local tomatoes and thick slides of fresh mozzarella is a delicious summertime salad, but the dark pigments in the vinegar can stain your teeth. “Balsamic vinegar has the color pigmentation and it is acidic, which makes your teeth more prone to picking up the stain,” says Dr. Veytsman. “But vinegar is healthy.” It contains antioxidants that protect the body from heart disease and cancer, can help normalize cholesterol, and aid in digestion. To combat staining she suggests carrying whitening strips with you or using whitening pens or wipes.

Summer-Foods-and-(One-Favorite-Activity)-that-Can-Stain-Your-TeethSolis Images/shutterstock

Swimming

Spending hours in the pool is great way to exercise and cool off on hot summer days but spending too much time in chlorinated water can cause swimmer’s calculus, or swimmer’s mouth. The condition, which causes proteins to harden into dark brown tartar, can occur from swimming in pools with too much chlorine and low pH levels (below 7). Studies show that swimming in over chlorinated pools can lead to erosion of tooth enamel and sensitivity. While it’s important to check the pH levels of your swimming pool, other steps to protect your teeth from chlorine include brushing your teeth, getting regular teeth cleanings, and using a toothpaste designed for the health of your enamel. Don’t miss these other teeth whitening secrets dentists wish you knew.

Kim Fredericks
Kim Fredericks is a freelance writer, content specialist, and editor with 20 years experience covering fitness, travel, hotels, design, real estate, and luxury lifestyle topics for major publications and web sites such as the Robb Report, Luxury magazine, Reader's Digest, and Oyster. Kim earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and English from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and a Masters in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston. She is an avid skier, golfer, and outdoor enthusiast. She lives in the NYC Metro area with her husband Victor and Rocky the Jack Russell. Visit her website: Kim Fredericks.