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You’ve spent all spring whitening your teeth, anticipating the knock-’em-dead combo of dazzling smile and healthy glow. Then you flash a grin in the mirror — and discover a sneaky stain has rained on your pearly white parade!
Most of us know that coffee, sodas, and red wine (*sigh*) can dim our grins, but summer brings some surprising smile-stainers. Each wages an assault on our enamel: Some erode with acidity, some open up the tooth’s pores, and others simply leave behind colored pigment — like tiny evil graffiti artists.
Want to abstain from summer stains? Below are eight culprits to watch out for as the temperatures rise. And remember: If it’ll stain your tennis whites, it’ll probably stain your teeth, too.
Although red is the heavy hitter when comes to discoloring your chompers, white wine’s higher acidity is even more corrosive to your enamel, opening the door to other staining foods. If happy hour is your happy place, try pairing that glass of vino with hard cheese, which can protect teeth by leaving a coating of calcium.
Yep, those artificial colors that turn your lips and tongue bright hues will stain your teeth, too. And don’t get us started on all that sugar — it’s like ringing a dinner bell for cavity-causing bacteria! Instead, choose natural pops made with pale juices such as apple, white grape, or peach.
Blueberries and blackberries are loaded with flavor and antioxidants, but they’re also packed with staining power. This goes for all those yummy smoothies loaded with dark berries as well. To reduce staining, try drinking smoothies through a paper or metal straw.
Summer shocker: Black tea actually has more staining potential than coffee. High levels of tannins make it easier for color compounds called chromogens — which tea has in spades — to stick to your smile. Rule of thumb: The lighter the tea, the whiter your smile.
The same artificial dyes used to punch up popsicle colors are also found in many energy drinks. To quench your thirst without dimming your grin, stick with water or natural electrolyte sources, such as coconut water. Gotta drink something Day-Glo? Be sure to swish out your mouth with H2O afterwards.
Packed with flavor and vitamin C, tomatoes are the vine stars of summer. But their ripe red hue is also a warning flag: The acid and dark pigment in tomatoes can easily discolor your enamel. Same goes for Grandma’s homemade marinara sauce. As for Caprese salad, it’s a double whammy for white teeth, combining tomatoes with dark, sticky balsamic vinaigrette. Mamma mia!
Listen to Beyoncé’s album all you want, but sip this acidic drink in moderation. The acid can erode your enamel and expose a yellow-tinted layer called dentin. Can’t pass up the neighbor kid’s lemonade stand? Brushing after drinking helps, but wait at least 30 minutes for your saliva to neutralize the acid and restore enamel strength. Any earlier and you can actually damage your enamel more.
Frequent swimmers beware! The chemicals used to treat pool water can cause proteins in your saliva to form deposits on your teeth, leaving your smile with an unsightly brownish tint. Happily, casual pool users — we’re talking six hours a week or less — can float worry-free.