I recently read, with amusement, a human-interest story about someone whose teeth turned green after consuming copious amounts of green beer at a local Irish pub. Similarly, I recall a patient who, despite being given my list of foods to avoid when whitening your teeth, consumed red wine just a few 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 colors are not associated with beautiful teeth. In fact, in the context of teeth, when I think of green, it’s usually a piece of spinach caught in between someone’s incisors…yuck.
Of course, white teeth are what everyone wants. So much, so that tooth whitening is the most frequently requested cosmetic dental procedure. Over 100 million Americans have whitened or bleached their teeth. As a country, we spend more than 1.4 billion dollars annually on over-the-counter whitening products – all in pursuit of a brighter smile.
Tooth whitening is a safe, non-invasive, and economical way to beautify your appearance when compared to other cosmetic dental procedures such as porcelain veneers, bonding, or crowns. But some basic dos and don’ts must be recognized to get the best possible results and minimize undesirable outcomes (including a “rainbow” smile).
Before I enumerate what foods and beverages to avoid when whitening your teeth, you should know that it applies to all teeth whitening techniques including in-office bleaching, dentist-prescribed take-home trays, whitening strips, brush-on gels, special toothpaste, etc.
The rule of thumb is this: if the food in question would stain white linen, then it will stain your teeth, especially when they are in the vulnerable state of being whitened. Get the point?
Three Types Of Foods To Avoid When Whitening Your Teeth
1) Avoid Dark-Colored Foods
Have you ever eaten Nacho Chips or Cheez Doodles and noticed how they stain your fingers? You certainly don’t want to transfer that neon orange to your teeth. Think about the color of your tongue after you sucked a lollypop or a cough drop – do you want that color to transfer to your teeth? Of course not!
- Soy Sauce
- Tomato Sauce
- Red Meat
- Dark Marinades
- Chocolate (white chocolate is fine)
- Bright-colored chewing gum
- Cheez Doodles
- Nacho Cheese Chips
- Candy such as Hot Tamales and Red Hots
2) Avoid Dark-Colored Drinks & Sports Beverages
Remember the patient who drank red wine? But 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 – 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 & Beverages
Two common side effects of tooth whitening are temporary tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. Acidic foods further irritate the gums (and can sting like the dickens!). They increase the sensitivity, as well, especially to cold. Acids are irritants, so stay away from them for about 48 hours following in-office bleaching and for a couple of hours following home bleaching.
- Citrus Fruit
- Most Sports Drinks
- Vitamin Water
Teeth whitening can work wonders, even, dare I say, even small miracles to beautify your smile. Please follow these simplified guidelines for foods to avoid when whitening your teeth and you will get the best possible results!