It comes as no surprise that if a food or drink can stain a tablecloth, it can stain your teeth. After I made this statement during a dental outreach, a gentleman sitting on the back row stood up and asked, “Doc, if red wine darkens tablecloth, does white wine whiten it?” I will be discussing six biggest tooth-staining culprits that can cause your pearly whites to lose their sparkle and methods to reduce the stains.
1. Kola nut:
As the popular adage goes, he who brings kola, brings life. Kola nut is the seed kernel of a large African tree grown commercially around the world and it gained its popularity as a caffeine-containing stimulant. The nut’s aroma is sweet and rose-like. Its initial taste is bitter and sweetens upon chewing. Many Ghanaian farm workers, manual workers and laborers chew kola nut as they go about their daily work. Regular daily chewing of kola nut can stain the teeth giving the teeth a rusty colour.
2. Soda and other carbonated drinks
In May 1886, Dr. John Styth Pemberton, a pharmacist from USA took extracts of the kolanut and coca, mixed them with sugar, carbonated water and caramel colouring to create the first recipe for carbonated beverage. Generally, soda and other carbonated drinks stain the teeth due to their high acidic nature which weakens the teeth and make it more susceptible to stain-causing ingredients. When your teeth is weakened by the acids from your drinks, the chromogens that give colour to your beverage can easily stain your teeth to produce a yellowish or brownish tooth appearance.
3. Coffee and Tea
How do you like your coffee; black or white? The debate as to which type stains the teeth more ends today. Coffee contains a substance called tannins. Tannins are responsible for staining teeth. Irrespective of whether you add milk or cream to your coffee does not reduce the amount of tannins there are in the coffee. However, a strong coffee such as Turkish brew can likely cause more stains than a cold brew. In case you think that you could skip coffee and take tea instead, you may be in for a surprise. Many black, green and herbal teas also contain tannins which stain teeth. Green tea leaves a dull grey appearance on teeth whereas black tea leaves yellowish stains if regularly consumed over time.
Sobolo, also known as the Bissap drink, is a popular beverage in Ghana which is served during weddings, engagements and parties. It is made from the roselle leaves or flower, a species of hibiscus that is native to West Africa. It has so many health benefits such as helping control blood pressure and cholesterol. Sobolo is typically dark purple-red in colour. Due to the tannins in the hibiscus, this famous beverage is able to stain the teeth over a period of time.
All wines contain tannins. Tannins are essential in winemaking, providing the wine with structure and a sense of balance but they inadvertently stain teeth. Red wine is red because of a red pigment in grapes called anthocyanins. Even though white wine does not contain this red pigment, it is quite acidic and has the ability to make your teeth more porous which enables stains to stick easily on the teeth.
6. Herbal bitters
In Ghana, herbal bitters are marketed on public transport, on radio, during television commercials and in street pubs. They gained popularity for boosting immune system and aiding digestive health. Regular consumption of these herbal bitters over a period of time tend to discolour the teeth giving the teeth a brownish to greenish appearance.
In spite of the fact that these foods and drinks stain your teeth over a period of time, there are ways to prevent these stains from recurring. The first would be to avoid swishing these drinks around your mouth, using a straw when you can, rinsing your mouth with water right after you eat or drink something that can stain, and visiting the dentist or dental hygienist every six (6) months for a regular scaling and polishing to take off the stains.