We know that discolored teeth are not just unattractive; they’re aging, making us look much older than we are. That’s why many people try to avoid dark foods and beverages that can discolor teeth, like coffee and red wine.

But there’s a problem: not all the foods that stain your teeth are actually dark in color. Here are some examples of foods that can stain your teeth, even though they’re light in color. Worse, some of these foods lead to tooth damage and discoloration. Although at River Edge Dentistry, teeth whitening can help combat staining, it’s often good to prevent staining in the first place.

woman smiling with white teethGreen Tea

Black tea looks like it will stain your teeth because it’s dark in color, so many people in River Edge think that switching to green tea will help with staining. But drinking green tea can lead to a yellowing of your tooth enamel.

And here’s another of nature’s little tricks: green tea contains the same chemicals as black tea, just in a different form. You might think that green tea gets roasted to become black tea, but it actually gets aged, allowing the chemicals to oxidize and turn dark in color. So what do you think will happen to green tea stains over time?

How to Avoid Staining from Green Tea

The best way to avoid teeth staining from green tea is to mix it with milk. Milk, like other dairy, contains casein. Casein binds with staining molecules called tannins in the tea, which keeps them from staining your teeth.


New Jersey is apple country, and in River Edge, we get some great local apples in the late summer and early fall. They seem like a great choice to help you avoid teeth stains.

Sure, apples look white on the inside, but you know what happens if you leave apples out, right? That’s because apples contain a compound known as polyphenol oxidase, which ripens them and causes them to turn brown. It’s an oxidation process similar to turning green tea into black tea. In addition, apples are mildly acidic, which can cause them to etch your teeth, making more places for stain molecules to accumulate.

How to Avoid Staining from Apples

The best solution for avoiding staining from apples is to rinse your mouth, chew sugar-free gum, or brush your teeth after eating them. If you decide to brush your teeth after eating apples, brush without toothpaste or use low-abrasion toothpaste. Acidic foods soften enamel, and you don’t want to apply anything abrasive to your teeth at this time. Not sure which toothpastes are best? Your River Edge dentist can recommend some options.

White Wine

It’s an easy substitution: just ditch red wine for white, right? It seems logical that white wine won’t stain your teeth because it’s pale in color, but science has shown that white wine can also lead to tooth staining.

Here’s what happens: the acid in wine causes your tooth enamel to soften, making it more permeable to staining compounds, which penetrate your teeth and get embedded there, darkening your teeth.

How to Avoid Teeth Stains from White Wine

The key to keeping your teeth from getting stained from drinking white wine, like that dry riesling from local Tomasello Winery, is to protect them from acid. Eating hard cheese while drinking wine helps with this. The texture of the cheese acts like a sponge to remove wine residue from your teeth, plus the cheese helps neutralize acids in the wine.

You can also rinse your mouth with water between sips of wine.

Clear Sodas and Carbonated Waters

Cola is another seemingly easy target to get rid of for tooth staining. Lemon-lime sodas or, better yet, carbonated waters are a much better choice to avoid staining your teeth.

But these have the same problem as white wine because they’re highly acidic. In fact, sparkling waters are often more acidic than sodas, and they can lead to permanent discoloration of your teeth because they thin the enamel and allow yellow dentin to show through.

How to Avoid Staining from Clear Sodas and Carbonated Waters

Not all carbonated waters are highly acidic. Carbonated water itself might be only mildly acidic, but it becomes more so when fruit flavors are added, especially citrus flavors like lemon. (Lemons, lemon juice, and lemon water are particularly hard on your teeth, leading to erosion and discoloration.) To protect your teeth from acid, choose unflavored carbonated water.


Potatoes, like apples, turn dark in color after they’ve been exposed to oxygen, but in this case, it’s due to a chemical called tyrosine.

There’s another reaction that can turn potatoes black. When the iron and chlorogenic acid in potatoes are exposed to a reactive metal like iron or aluminum, they can turn black. It’s not known if a similar reaction occurs in the presence of metal amalgam fillings, which themselves turn black with age.

How to Avoid Staining from Potatoes

Starchy potatoes will, unfortunately, stick to your teeth. It’s good to clean your teeth, either by brushing them (possibly without toothpaste), rinsing your mouth, or chewing sugar-free gum.

Staining Is Inevitable

Hopefully, we’ve given you enough examples to get the picture: tooth staining is inevitable. There’s always going to be something in your diet that stains your teeth, and, over time, it’s going to lead to discolored teeth.

But that doesn’t mean people in River Edge have to live with discolored teeth. Teeth whitening is quite effective at remove food-related stains. And if your teeth are discolored from within or because acid erosion has thinned the enamel, dental veneers can cover up the stained teeth and give you a bright, white smile. And veneers are stain-resistant, shedding staining molecules for ten years or more with proper maintenance.

If you want to learn more about achieving and maintaining a whiter smile, please call (201) 343-4044 for an appointment with a River Edge  cosmetic dentist at River Edge Dental, New Jersey’s center for general & cosmetic dentistry.