With summer heating up, here are some tips to keeping your teeth look their best when you’re enjoying those summer drinks at the pool party.
Dr. Michael Florman, orthodontist and dental researcher (Los Angeles, CA), explains that tooth enamel is the hardest material found in the human body, made of approximately 95% minerals. The minerals in the enamel form tightly packed hydroxyapatite crystals organized into what are called enamel rods. These rods act like channels allowing organic molecules found in foods and drinks to penetrate the enamel surface, resulting in tooth discoloration. For the most part, genetics dictate the color of peoples teeth, based on the thickness of the enamel, enamel rod configuration (tight or lose) and the coloration of the underlying tooth dentin. Some people naturally have incredible white teeth based on the makeup of their enamel and dentin, while others need to work at keeping their pearly whites - white. Research has shown that next to a person’s eyes, teeth are second body part people look at when first meeting. Stained teeth give the appearance of age and poor oral hygiene, while white teeth represent youth and convey high personal esteem.
What we eat and drink also play a role in how our teeth look. Foods and drinks composed of “tooth staining organic compounds” and acids (lower pH) constantly attack our enamel causing staining and demineralization. The acids in foods and drinks weaken the enamel surface allowing for more staining compounds to attach and settle in.
- Highly acidic fruits (low pH) which open the doors to staining compounds. Ranked in order of acidity: lemons, limes, plums, grapes, pomegranates, grapefruits, blueberries, pineapples, apples, peaches, mangoes, oranges and tomatoes. (University of Wisconsin-Madisaon)
- Teas and coffee are not only acidic, but contain tannins, which are organic staining compounds.
- Highly colored fruits and vegetables contain chromogens, compounds that can be used to create dyes found in blue berries, black berries, raspberries and beets and tomatoes.
- Wines, both red and whites.
- Miscellaneous foods to avoid are balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and any food containing curry.
- Soda – high acid – contains sugars. Sugar free sodas may not contain sugars, but are still acidic.
- Sports drinks – highly acidic and can contain sugar.
- Sugars found in drinks feed the bacteria that cause bad breath and tooth decay.
Preventive measures that can be taken to combat the effects of tooth staining, high acid, sugary drinks include:
- Drinking plenty of water while you’re enjoying your summer cocktails. Water will neutralize the acid attack while rinsing down the tannins, chromogens, and sugars, keeping you hydrated, which will allow you to produce more saliva which is the body’s best defense in combatting acid and sugar attacks.
- Eat foods that can neutralize the acids founds in your drinks or help clean your teeth, such as milk, cheese, nuts, fibrous fruits (carrots, celery) to name a few.
- Carry a portable toothbrush in your purse or pocket, and excuse yourself and brush your teeth. Toothpaste is optional.
- Last but not least, a new portable product offered from EverSmile, Inc., called WhitenFresh, was introduced earlier this year. It is the first on-the-go tooth whitening, breath freshening spray. WhitenFresh is designed to immediately break down organic particles that stain teeth the instant the spray contacts the teeth. A patent pending hydrogen peroxide cleaning formula breaks up organic particles while killing bacteria that cause bad breath and tooth decay. Directions say to spray one pump in mouth and swish solution around. Up to 6 times per day, you can keep your teeth shiny white all day long.
Someone asked me other day, which cocktails cause the least amount of tooth staining? The answer is simple, any clear alcohols, such as gin or vodka, compared to darker colored tonics which contain many more chromogens. Drinking alcohols on the rocks or neat will have less staining effects to teeth than mixing them with mixers that contain natural or artificial food coloring. Drinks with mixers also contain concentrated solutions that will definitely cause tooth discoloration.
We asked Dr. Florman how he would rank a list of drinks in terms of their ability to stain teeth. He said his rule of thumb is the more color in the drink (the darker it is) the increase in tooth staining organics. We gave him a list of summer drinks to rank from least to highest in terms of staining: spiked seltzers, rosé, margs, frosé, sangrias, negronis. As for Dr. Florman’s favorite drink, he prefers the Mojito, or Cuban Highball, containing white rum, lime, soda water, sugar, and mint.
Located in Los Angeles, EverSmile’s mission is to create new and advanced oral care products that will change patients’ lives. Currently in development are our new sensitivity-free whitening agents, dry mouth formulations, low-abrasion toothpastes, and a complete children’s dental line.