Which Foods Stain Your Teeth?

Looking to keep your teeth as white as can be? Steer clear of these teeth-staining foods and drinks…      


With their acidity, bright red color, and tendency to cling to your teeth, tomatoes contain the perfect storm of teeth-staining properties. When you eat tomato-based dishes like soups or pasta sauces, the acid in tomatoes can roughen the tooth enamel, allowing that bright red pigment to penetrate the enamel and leave unsightly stains. Acid erosion of the enamel can also cause the enamel to thin, making the yellow-brown dentin layer beneath the enamel more visible and giving the tooth a discolored appearance. This type of discoloration is much harder to manage than surface stains, so it’s best avoided at all costs.


Commonly found in Indian dishes, curry is a blend of delicious but strongly pigmented spices. The deep yellow, orange and red hues of spices like turmeric and chili powder can stain teeth over time.     

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a staple ingredient in many Asian cuisines, bringing a delicious umami taste to dishes. However, the strong, dark pigment of this liquid can linger on the teeth and leave yellowish stains. It’s also mildly acidic, so try to enjoy it in moderation. 

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar makes a delicious salad dressing, but it also packs a one-two punch when it comes to teeth staining. Thanks to the high sugar content, this dark liquid sticks to your teeth and soaks into the enamel if not properly rinsed away. And because it’s highly acidic, it can also wear away the enamel over time.         


Berries like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, pomegranates and cranberries are packed full of antioxidants, but unfortunately they also have lots of teeth-staining potential. The strong colors in these fruits, paired with their high acidity, can cause staining whether they’re eaten whole, as a jam or jelly, or as a juice.

Citrus Fruits

While they might not be strongly-colored, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and other citrus fruits are among the most acidic foods out there! That means that whether they’re eaten whole or juiced up, citrus fruits can erode the enamel and make it easier for stains to set in.


You might not be surprised to see red and black grapes on this list thanks to their high acidity and deep color. However, while white grapes might not pack the same pigment as their darker counterparts, they’re even more acidic. That goes for both whole grapes and grape juice, so keep these teeth-staining culprits to a minimum for a white smile.


If you’ve ever chopped up a beet, then your fingers, cutting boards and work surfaces are all the evidence you need of this veggie’s powerful staining potential! Beets are packed with nutrients that are great for your health, but be sure to clean your teeth well to avoid a blushing pink tinge. 


Candy is acidic and laden with sugar, so it sticks to your teeth long after you finish and wears away your precious enamel. It often gets its hue from strongly pigmented food colorings, too, which can leave a stain behind on your teeth. And keep in mind that even “natural colorings” often include things like beet juice, which may be healthier, but certainly won’t do the color of your teeth any favors!

Tea and Coffee

Drinks can be some of the biggest culprits when it comes to staining teeth, and black tea and coffee are among the worst offenders. They’re packed with darkly pigmented molecules called tannins, which can soak into the enamel and stay there after your daily brew. Tea and coffee are also very acidic, so they can be bad news for your teeth in general if you drink them too often.      

Red Wine

It’s made from darkly colored, highly acidic grapes, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to find red wine on this list! In fact, red wine might be even more harmful than grapes when it comes to staining. Not only does it bathe the teeth as it fills your mouth, but you tend to enjoy it over a longer period of time, prolonging your teeth’s exposure to the colored pigments and acid. And yes, just like grapes, white wine is even more acidic, even though it’s lighter!

Carbonated Drinks

Last but by no means least on this list of teeth-staining offenders is carbonated drinks. These include soda, sports drinks, and seltzers. Not only are they highly, highly acidic, they often contain bright food colorings and lots of sugar. But don’t be fooled by sugar-free or clear options, either – they’re still very acidic and will lead to staining over time.


Tips and Tricks for Preventing Teeth Stains

Starting to feel like there’s no hope for keeping your teeth clean and stain-free? Don't give up yet! Some types of fruits and vegetables actually help to clean your teeth while you eat, which can help keep stains from setting in. Here are some more tips and tricks for keeping your smile white and bright while you enjoy your favorite foods and drinks.

1. Practice thorough, consistent oral hygiene. When sticky plaque builds up on the teeth, it attracts pigments that cause staining and discoloration, but you can keep it at bay with twice-daily brushing. Not only will you be doing your oral health a huge favor, you’ll also be giving those stains nowhere to set up home.  

2. Use a whitening toothpaste. These contain tiny, abrasive particles that lift away stains while you brush, and some also contain mild bleaching agents to lift more stubborn stains.

3. Before you dive into a tomato-based dish, try eating a salad or some dark greens, like kale, spinach, or broccoli. These foods create a thin film over your teeth that will help protect them from the staining effects of tomatoes.

4. Whenever you indulge in curried food, accompany it with crunchy, stain-preventing fruits or vegetables like apples, carrots, celery, or cucumbers.

5. Drink water or milk after you eat sweet or acidic foods, like berries, tomatoes or candy. These beverages help to rinse away bacteria and staining pigments while neutralizing acidity, and milk also contains calcium and proteins that help to strengthen the teeth.

6. Drink through a straw to help strongly colored drinks bypass your teeth altogether. Get a pack of straws to keep for your home or office so you always have one handy when you’re craving a teeth-staining drink.

7. Wait 60 minutes before brushing. It’s important to clean off strongly colored foods and drinks quickly if you don’t want stains to set in. However, your enamel softens for a little while after you eat or drink, especially after you consume something acidic. If you brush too soon, you could damage it, so wait an hour and rinse thoroughly with water in the meantime.  

8. Make some clever switches, like swapping black tea for green tea, juice for milk, or berries for crunchy apples. We’re not saying cut out the things you love entirely! Especially when lots of teeth-staining foods have great health benefits. But the occasional clever switch can reduce the overall impact on your teeth and support a brighter, whiter smile.  


This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay