It would be amazing if teeth could stay a pearly white forever. However, that’s highly unlikely. The foods we eat, the drinks we drink, and some of our lifestyle habits can play a large role in the color of our teeth, and for many, it means staining or discoloration. One way to keep your teeth whiter for longer is to know what types of foods, drinks, and habits to avoid to prevent your teeth from staining or discoloration.

side by side view showing stained and whitened teethWhy Do Teeth Stain?

There is a chemical compound known as chromogens that are responsible for giving drinks and foods a strong color. Unfortunately, it is also this compound that causes stains and discoloration on your teeth. Another substance called tannin can also cause your teeth to stain. Lastly, acids can cause your teeth to stain by wearing down your teeth. Think of your teeth as a white shirt. If you spill something on your shirt and it stains, that same substance will stain your teeth.

Types of Stains

There are three types of stains your teeth can experience. First is extrinsic teeth stains. These are stains that occur on the surface of the tooth, usually from pigmented residue from drinks, food, or tobacco use. Usually, you can easily remove these stains with brushing and flossing, and/or brushing with whitening toothpaste.

An intrinsic stain is a stain that occurs below the tooth’s surface when the stain-causing particles make their way through the tooth exterior. They then accumulate within the enamel. These types of stains are much more difficult to remove and may require professional teeth whitening.

Lastly, age-related tooth stains are a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic stains. The inner core of your teeth, the dentin, naturally becomes more yellow over time as a result of age. With age, the enamel also thinner which then allows the dentin to show through and make teeth look yellower.


Smoking is one of the biggest contributors to stained and discolored teeth and is a completely unnecessary habit. The stains on your teeth caused by smoking come from the nicotine and tar in the cigarettes. Every time you inhale, the smoke surrounds your entire mouth and coats your teeth in its chemicals. Smokers traditionally have yellow teeth from short-term use and brown teeth from long-term use. Not only will smoking stain your teeth, but it can lead to bad breath, gum disease, increased plaque and tartar, and even tooth loss.

Chewing Tobacco

Even though chewing tobacco is smokeless, it can still affect your teeth, oral health, and overall health. To start, chewing tobacco contains at least 29 cancer-causing chemicals. It also contains nicotine and tar, which are responsible for staining your teeth. Chewing tobacco mixes with your saliva which turns your saliva brown and then coats your teeth and causes stains. Like cigarettes, chewing tobacco can also cause bad breath, gum disease, cavities, and other harmful oral health side effects.

Not Brushing or Flossing

You might think that skipping brushing your teeth at night isn’t a big deal but the truth is it can do more than cause cavities, it can also stain your teeth. The same is true with flossing. If you skip flossing, you’re at a higher risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay. When you eat and drink throughout the day, the bacteria from the food and drink mixes with your saliva and creates plaque that coats your teeth. If you don’t brush it off every night, it can turn into hard tartar which will stain your teeth. Don’t forget to brush twice a day and floss once a day to prevent staining.

Eating Certain Foods

Going back to the t-shirt analogy, think of anything you’ve ever spilled on a white piece of clothing and how the stain was nearly impossible to get out. That’s an example of foods that will stain your teeth. Examples of these foods include tomato-based sauces, curry, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, berries, and beetroot.

Drinking Staining or Acidic Drinks

Certain drinks might be high in acidity which can wear your enamel and expose the dentin’s yellow color. These as well as certain staining foods can cause your teeth to look yellow or discolored. These include soda such as cola, red wine, tea, coffee, and dark fruit juices.

Savouring Foods and Drinks Too Long in Your Mouth

It’s great to enjoy your foods and drinks but if you hold them in your mouth for longer than it takes to chew and swallow, your teeth will experience more exposure to the staining substances. For best results, try not to hold food and drinks in your mouth too long.

Not Drinking Enough Water

Drinking enough water is important for washing away the remaining residue in your mouth. Make sure you drink enough water all day long to keep your teeth cleaner and stain-free!

Get Professional Teeth Whitening in Columbia, SC

If your teeth still look stained and discolored after avoiding these habits that stain your teeth, professional teeth whitening is your solution. With the help of professional whitening, we can remove years of staining from your teeth in one simple in-office treatment, or with a take-home kit. Contact our cosmetic dentist in Columbia, SC for professional teeth whitening today by calling (803) 781-9090.