Dr. Gentry’s list of 15 foods that stain teeth.

Article published in The University of Maryland Magazinephilfoods

  1. Coffee

Your morning cup of Joe might be a necessity that you cannot live without. However, coffee contains dark pigments and healthy but acidic polyphenols, and tannins that can lead to staining and discoloration. Plus, coffee is also very acidic, and acidic foods lead to tooth decay.

  1. Tea

Tea has stain-causing tannins. If you’re constantly sipping on tea throughout the day, avoid Earl Grey and choose a lighter colored variety such as an herbal or green tea. To fight against tea stains, research published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene says to add a little milk to your cup! The casein in milk was found to significantly prevent and reduce tea-induced stains.

  1. Red Wine

Those same troublesome tannins exist in your favorite glass of vino, too. Try pairing your glass of Pinot Noir with a handful of almonds to help counteract staining. The act of chewing hard foods like nuts can help scrub away plaque from teeth and mitigate staining. Swish out with water immediately after drinking wine.

  1. Berries

Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are very healthy and packed with antioxidants, but due to their darker hues, berries will cause staining of the teeth. Eat berries and brush right after.

  1. Curry

Although the exotic spices taste amazing, those yellow and red yummy spices also tint your teeth, thanks to their deep pigmentation. The best way to prevent staining here is to make curry an “every once in awhile” treat. Your smile will thank you.

  1. Hard Candies

Hard candies like Jolly ranchers might be one of the worst foods for your teeth. They are both sticky and acidic. Choose non-sticky dark chocolate instead.

  1. Tomato Sauce and Ketchup

Anything that can stain your clothes can stain your teeth. Tomatoes are also acidic. Brush after your spaghetti and meatballs.

  1. Cherry and Cranberry Juice

All fruit juice puts your teeth at risk of discoloration, especially when the fruits are richly pigmented like cherries or berries. Not to mention, fruit juice is often stacked high in sugar, which can act as a breeding site for bacteria in your mouth and lead to more dental damage and discoloration.

  1. Soda

Regular and diet soda is very acidic to the body and, as a result, is damaging to your dental health. Drinking plain water is the best choice for your teeth. Drinking through a straw may help a little.

  1. Balsamic Vinegar and Soy Sauce

Salads are healthy for you, but that balsamic may do a number on your teeth. Not only is balsamic dark in color, but it’s rather sticky and will latch onto teeth, which can lead to staining if it’s not brushed away soon after eating. Avoid too much soy sauce, it stains and contains too much sodium anyway.

  1. Beets

Whether you enjoy them in your morning veggie juice or consume them whole, beets can be incredibly staining to the teeth. Brush your teeth after eating beets. You can also try pairing them with foods that are less damaging to your mouth—like cheese! Studies show that cheese can reduce acids in the mouth.

  1. Popsicles

Popsicles may be lower in calories than other dessert options, but due to their sugar content and fruit juice base, and will stain your teeth. Chew sugarless gum instead to increase your saliva production, which helps to neutralize and counteract those acid attacks.

  1. Gatorade

Some research suggests sports drinks are even more harmful to your smile than sodas. Researchers from New York University found that excessive consumption of these types of drinks can weaken and damage the tissue in your teeth because of a combination of acidic components, sugars, and other additives.

  1. Grapes

If wine will turn your smile dark, then you better believe its main ingredient will do the same. Grapes are deeply pigmented fruits and may cause staining when eaten often. Brush after eating grapes.

  1. Lemon

Hot water with lemon in the morning has become a popular with celebrities. But citrus fruits like lemon or lime are highly acidic and can erode the enamel on your teeth—in turn, revealing yellow dentin tissue below. Avoid acids, drink water.


Dr. Philip A. Gentry, DDS 
Fellow, Academy of General Dentistry
Dean’s Faculty, Advanced Education in General Dentistry,
Department of General Dentistry,
University of Maryland School of Dentistry
Private Practice in Arlington, Virginia