This past St. Patrick’s Day I read with amusement a human-interest story about someone whose teeth turned green after consuming copious amounts of green beer being served at a local Irish pub. Similarly, I recall a patient, who despite being given this list of foods to avoid when whitening your teeth, consumed red wine some hours after undergoing in-office tooth whitening. She appeared at my “doorstep” the next morning with purple-hued teeth!
And while I happen to fancy green and purple (along with blue and pink) these are not colors associated with beautiful teeth. In fact when I think of green in the context of teeth, it’s usually a piece of spinach caught between someone’s incisors…yuck.
White is the desired dental color. So much so that tooth whitening is the most frequently requested cosmetic dental procedure. Over 100 million Americans have whitened or bleached their teeth and as a country, we annually spend more than 1.4 billion dollars on over-the-counter whitening products in pursuit of a brighter smile.
Tooth whitening is a safe, noninvasive, and economical way to beautify one’s appearance when compared to other cosmetic dental procedures, such as porcelain veneers, bonding or crowns. But there are some basic dos and don’ts that must be recognized to realize to get the best possible results and minimize undesired outcomes, including a “rainbow” smile.
Before I enumerate what foods and beverages to avoid when undergoing tooth whitening this guideline applies to all techniques utilized to whiten teeth including in-office bleaching, dentist prescribed take-home trays, whitening strips, brush-on gels, and special toothpastes, etc.
Have you ever eaten Dorito Nacho Cheese Chips or Cheez Doodles? What do your fingers look like? Do you want to transfer that neon orange to your teeth? Or this: What color is your tongue after sucking on a lollypop or a cough drop? Do you want that color to transfer to your teeth? Of course not!
The rule of thumb is this: if the food in question will stain white linen, then it will stain your teeth, especially when they are in the more vulnerable transition of being whitened. Get the point?
Foods To Avoid When Whitening Your Teeth
1. Avoid Foods With Color
- Tomato Sauce
- Soy Sauce
- Red Meat
- Dark Marinades
- Chocolate (white chocolate is fine)
- Bright-colored chewing gum
- Cheez Doodles
- Nacho Cheese Chips
- Candies such as Hot Tamales and Red Hots
2. Avoid Dark Drinks And Sports Beverages
Again, if it will stain a white shirt, stay away. Remember my patient who drank red wine? Don’t worry, white wine is fine, as is vodka, gin and other clear or light beverages. But stay away from:
- Coffee (if you must have your caffeine fix, drink iced coffee through a straw, but no swishing!)
- Grape Drinks
- Tomato Juice
- Carrot Juice
- Green Juice (sorry all of you kale juice enthusiasts)
- Gatorade Type Drinks (red, green, blue or orange)
3. Avoid Acidic Foods And Beverages
Two of the most common side effects of tooth whitening are transient tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. Acidic foods will further irritate the gums (can sting like the dickens!) and increase the sensitivity, especially to cold. Acids are an irritant, so stay away from them for about 48 hours following in-office bleaching and for a couple of hours following home bleaching.
- Acidic foods (such as citrus fruit)
- Most Sports Drinks
- Vitamin Water
Teeth whitening can work wonders, even, dare I say, even small miracles to beautify your smile. Follow these simplified guidelines and you will get the best possible results.