Red wine, coffee, soda, beets, fruit pies like cherry and blueberry, and juices like pomegranate and grape contain chromogens or pigmented molecules. Because enamel, the outer tooth layer, is porous and has microscopic openings, it will allow these small colored molecules to enter. The acidic nature of many holiday favorites causes a further breakdown of the tooth enamel, allowing the chromogens to enter the tooth. Red wine contains tannins, which tether to the enamel and encourage pigmented food to stick to and stain the teeth.
So, how can you fight stains from your favorite noshing? Here are the five best tips to keep your teeth looking their winter whitest!
1. Brush and floss before indulging. Keeping the teeth free of plaque makes it harder for stains to attach. Doing this before eating or drinking also lowers your risk of tooth decay and gum disease!
2. Drink water or rinse with water after eating. Wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking to brush or floss – the enamel needs a chance to build up strength. Enamel is most sensitive just after a meal or beverage. Water, especially if it contains fluoride, will strengthen the teeth and dilute acidic and pigmented substances. Added bonus: staying hydrated can reduce the effects of holiday overindulgence!
3. Say cheese! Hard cheeses stimulate saliva, which releases calcium for enamel strength and recovery. Celery, broccoli, carrots and other crunchy veggies can also help to remove plaque naturally, reducing the areas that the natural and artificial dyes found in holiday fare can attach to.
4. Pop a piece of sugarless gum containing xylitol. Xylitol is derived from birch wood, among other natural sources, and is anti-cariogenic- it prevents tooth decay. Along with helping to reduce plaque, chewing sugarless gum that contains xylitol also helps to combat dry mouth, blocks acid, and is the best alternative when you are out celebrating and can’t brush!
5. Use whitening toothpaste to scrub away stains on the tooth surface. A caution here – these toothpastes can be more abrasive than non-whitening, and can even wear away enamel over time. Whitening toothpastes will not give you a noticeable result, but may help to maintain the shade of tooth you already have. Also, whitening toothpastes and treatments can’t change the color of fillings, veneers or crowns. See your dentist for options that will deliver more vivid results, like professionally prescribed at-home or in-office whitening treatments.
Speaking of white teeth…have you seen the ad for the “tissue test”?
Hold a tissue up to your teeth to check how white they are (or are not!)…and you are sure to fail! Why?
These dental shade guides are used to match restorative materials, like composites (white fillings) and crowns, to your existing teeth. Diet, genetics and age play a large role in the shades of our teeth. Notice how only the whitest shades come anywhere close to snowy white, ensuring that the tissue test is one test you might not pass.
Want to learn more? Prepare to become a Dental Assistant with Harper College CE’s 12-week online program.
This is a guest post by Kelly Rose, D.M.D., CDA. Kelly teaches our new online Dental Assistant program at Harper College CE. Learn the role of a dental assistant in supporting dentists and dental hygienists in a rapidly growing industry. Demand for dental assistants is expected to increase by 36% through 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Click here to learn more about our program and spring registration details.