Eyes may be the window to the soul, but your teeth are the window to … your diet. It’s no surprise that people spend thousands of dollars to keep their pearly whites shining. For most Americans, however, teeth whitening isn’t an affordable option.
However, there are a few foods and drinks you can avoid on a regular basis to keep your teeth healthy. We’ve listed the worst offenders as well as some tips to help you keep your teeth white without the insane cost (page 8).
1. Pigmented fruit
Blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates, oh my. “There are a variety of fruits that have dark pigments that can easily stain your teeth,” New York City aesthetic dentist Dr. Michael Apa, D.D.S. told GQ. “Blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates have purple and red pigments that … leave residue on your teeth.”
2. Your favorite sauces
We’re talking soy sauce, pasta sauce, and barbecue sauce. The dark pigments in the sauces will have the same staining effect as the fruits we listed before. The sticky consistency of soy sauce and barbecue sauce will promote staining as well.
Barbecue sauce is extremely sugary — which is bad news for your pearly whites. It turns out that what makes barbecue sauce a great marinade is what makes it horrible for your teeth. It clings to the enamel, marinating your teeth in sugar — the same way it holds on to the meat.
Next: Just because it’s packed with Vitamin C, doesn’t mean it’s tooth-healthy.
Citrus fruits and juices — oranges, lemons, and limes, among others — are extremely acidic. Which makes them terrible for your teeth. Acidity makes tooth enamel softer and rougher, in turn making it easier for stains to set in.
Some citrus foods are worse than others and may erode tooth enamel over time. A study on tooth erosion found that grapefruit and lemon juice are the worst offenders, while orange juice is actually OK. “Fortified OJ is good for you on many levels,” Matthew Messina, spokesperson for the American Dental Association, said. “Drink it, but brush and floss as recommended.”
Next: People find it really tough to cut back on these drinks.
4. Coffee and wine
These two vices make be your morning and evening go-tos, but they aren’t doing any favors for your teeth. And, contrary to popular belief, white wine can actually do more damage than red wine. The white wine itself may not stain your teeth like red does, but its highly acidic nature can make your teeth more susceptible to absorbing stains from other dark foods and drinks.
Coffee and wine contain tannins, acids, and chromogens, the “trifecta for staining teeth.” Both acid and tannins are terrible for your pearly whites according to WebMD.
Next: You’ll be surprised which drink is even worse for your pearly whites than coffee.
It’s a common misconception that coffee and wine are the worst drinks for your teeth: Turns out tea is actually the worst culprit. Like wine, it has acid, tannins, and chromogens. “Tea causes teeth to stain much worse than coffee,” Mark Wolff, D.D.S., Ph.D., told WebMD. It doesn’t matter if it’s iced or brewed — either way, it can yellow your teeth for the long-term.
Next: The doctor wasn’t exaggerating about candy
6. Sweets and food dye
The irony of the free lollipops at the dentist office lives on. While the idea of sugar “rotting your teeth” sounds far-fetched, it’s actually pretty realistic. The sugar in sweets like candy and baked goods creates a breeding ground for bacteria, which leads to tooth decay — hence, cavities.
If you notice the food dye in hard candy staining your tongue, you’re seeing the effects it has on your teeth. Dentists recommend avoiding colored candy, ice pops, and sodas. Colored sports drinks — like Gatorade and Powerade — could start to erode your teeth, too.
Next: If your teeth are already stained, you may need to shell out big bucks to fix them.
The best teeth-whitening costs thousands
Laser teeth whitening prices vary, but it ranges between $400 and $1,500. However, the initial laser session is just the beginning: there’s the extra cost of time and maintenance. On average, you’ll pay about $1,000 — for the procedure alone.
In addition to one whitening procedure, there’s the cost of multiple dentist visits, follow-up treatments, and general tooth maintenance to ensure your procedure wasn’t a waste of time.
Next: Here’s how to keep your teeth healthy — at a lower price.
Keeping your teeth white doesn’t need to cost a fortune
If it feels unrealistic to cut the foods on this list out of your diet — coffee probably feels downright impossible — there are other ways to keep your teeth white than a thousand-dollar procedure. Drink through a straw whenever possible, brush after you eat/drink the offensive products listed above, and floss daily.