Having orange stains on your teeth can be unsightly and embarrassing. These stains are caused by eating and drinking foods that are highly pigmented, such as oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, and tomato sauce. The pigments in these foods can bind to the enamel on your teeth, leaving behind stubborn discoloration.
The good news is there are several effective methods for removing orange stains from your teeth. With some diligent brushing, whitening treatments, and lifestyle adjustments, you can get your smile looking bright and white again.
What Causes Orange Stains on Teeth?
Orange stains form on your teeth when pigments called chromogens bind to your tooth enamel. Chromogens are naturally occurring coloring agents found in certain foods and drinks. Some common dietary sources of orange/yellow chromogens include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Spices like turmeric and curry
- Tomato sauce
- Citrus fruits like lemons and limes
When you consume these chromogen-rich foods and drinks, the pigments can penetrate into the microscopic grooves and pits on your tooth enamel. As the residual pigment accumulates over time, it leads to stubborn surface stains that can discolor your smile.
How to Remove Established Stains
If you already have tough, set-in orange stains on your teeth, you will need to use specialized removal techniques to get rid of them. Here are some of the most effective methods for eliminating stubborn orange discoloration:
Baking soda is mildly abrasive, so it can help scrub away surface stains on your teeth. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with enough water to form a thick paste. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently brush the paste onto stained areas of your teeth. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes before rinsing. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as baking soda can erode enamel over time.
As a bleaching agent, hydrogen peroxide can whiten teeth by lifting intrinsic stains from the interior of the enamel. Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water, then swish the solution around your mouth for 2-3 minutes before spitting it out. You can repeat this daily until stains dissipate.
Strawberries contain malic acid, which acts as a natural astringent to remove surface discoloration on teeth. Mash some fresh strawberries into a paste, then apply it with a toothbrush and let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly when done. For added stain-fighting power, you can mix strawberries with baking soda.
Look for toothpastes containing gentle polishing agents and teeth whitening ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or baking soda. Brush with a whitening toothpaste twice per day, focusing on stained areas. The polishing agents will gradually lift extrinsic stains from the enamel’s surface.
Whitening strips contain peroxide gel that adheres to your teeth to bleach away both surface and inner stains. Products like Crest Whitestrips can effectively lighten the yellow-orange hues left behind by chromogen-rich foods. Use the strips as directed, applying them to cleaned teeth once or twice per day.
Get custom-fitted whitening trays from your dentist, then fill them with a carbamide or hydrogen peroxide gel. Wear the trays for a set amount of time each day until you achieve your desired whiteness. Trays allow the whitening gel to have thorough contact with stain-prone areas.
Your dentist can perform in-office whitening treatments using a stronger hydrogen peroxide gel and specialized light activation. These professional treatments provide dramatic results in just one visit, but are more costly than at-home methods. They also have higher risks of tooth sensitivity.
Once you’ve removed orange stains using the techniques above, you’ll need to be diligent about prevention. Here are some everyday habits to avoid new chromogen stains from forming:
Brush After Meals
Any time you eat or drink something that could stain, brush your teeth soon after to remove food residue and newly deposited pigments. This will prevent discoloration from setting into the enamel.
Flossing helps dislodge chromogen particles from your tooth surfaces and gums. It also minimizes plaque buildup that can trap stains.
Tobacco smoke causes brownish discoloration and is very difficult to remove from tooth enamel. If you smoke, quitting can help prevent further staining.
Limit Staining Foods and Drinks
Reduce your consumption of foods and beverages that contribute to orange stains. If you do indulge in something staining, rinse your mouth with water afterwards.
Drink With a Straw
Drinking staining beverages through a straw lets the liquid bypass your front teeth, reducing contact with the enamels’ stain-prone surfaces.
Choose White Wine Over Red
Red wine causes more stubborn staining than white wine, thanks to a higher concentration of chromogens. If you want to prevent stains, stick with clear alcoholic beverages.
Rinse With Water
Swish water around your mouth after eating to wash away food residues that interact with enamel. This simple habit can minimize staining between meals.
Chewing sugarless gum produces saliva, which helps neutralize acids and wash away staining particles.
Get Regular Cleanings
See your dentist for professional cleanings every 6 months. This will remove hardened plaque and extrinsic stains that daily brushing leaves behind.
When to See a Dentist
If you try over-the-counter whitening methods without success, speak to your dentist. They can evaluate your tooth discoloration and determine the best way to remove stubborn stains.
You may be referred to an endodontist if the stains are coming from inside the tooth, signaling internal pulp issues. Root canal treatment could be required to address the underlying problem.
Keep in mind that certain types of tooth discoloration may require more advanced whitening treatments or dental procedures:
- Brown or black stains could indicate tooth decay or trauma.
- Gray, blue-black, or dark brown stains may be caused by amalgam fillings or medications like tetracycline.
- Greenish stains are usually external and require professional cleaning.
- Yellow-brown stains on single teeth may indicate dead nerves.
Don’t try to bleach or scrape away discoloration without understanding its cause. Consult your dentist first for an accurate diagnosis and whitening recommendation.
When to Avoid DIY Whitening
While over-the-counter whitening methods are generally safe, talk to your dentist before attempting them if you have any of the following:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Damaged enamel
- Leaky fillings
- Gum disease
- Crowns, veneers, or other restorations
Whitening products can irritate sensitive teeth and seep underneath defective restorations. Get your dentist’s guidance to whiten safely and effectively.
Maintaining a Bright Smile
Removing orange stains from your teeth takes time and effort, so you’ll want to preserve your bright, white smile once achieved. In addition to everyday preventive habits, follow these maintenance tips:
- Get teeth cleaned professionally every 6 months
- Use an electric toothbrush when brushing
- Brush with whitening toothpaste daily
- Floss thoroughly once per day
- Apply whitening strips or gel periodically as needed
- Drink water after consuming staining foods or drinks
- Limit your intake of chromogen-rich foods
By being proactive with at-home care and professional cleanings, you can keep your smile glowing and minimize recurrent stains.
When to See Your Dentist
Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you notice:
- Tooth or gum sensitivity when whitening
- Increased staining tendency even with good oral hygiene
- White spots or Other changes to your enamel
- Rapid recurrence of discoloration after whitening
Some oral health issues may require treatment before attempting further whitening. Discuss any problems or concerns with your dentist.
Take Home Message
Orange stains don’t have to be permanent. Using the right mix of whitening treatments, oral hygiene habits, and lifestyle adjustments can successfully remove discoloration from your teeth. However, some staining requires professional help. See your dentist if over-the-counter methods aren’t solving the problem. With persistence and good dental care, you can enjoy clean, bright smiles for years to come.