What Does Green Food Coloring Do to Teeth?

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Green eggs and ham, green milkshakes and green cupcakes are just a few of the green-colored foods that individuals can find to eat on St. Patrick’s Day. Eating these special holiday treats can help to get consumers in the Irish spirit but also leave their teeth green-colored for several hours after eating. Understanding how food coloring effects teeth can help to relieve stress caused by the thought that teeth will develop a permanent green-colored luster, allowing St. Patrick’s Day enthusiasts to enjoy the food available during the Irish holiday.

What is food coloring?

There are an abundance of types of food color available, whether it be gels or liquid dyes. Each type and brand of green food coloring contains a different combination of chemicals and green colored substances to create the bright coloring. Seaweed is an ingredient that is often used to create the vibrant green color in food coloring by having it ground up into a paste and included into the dye composition. Algae is another ingredient that is used to give items green coloring and is the most common way in which beers are made green for St. Patrick’s Day. Spinach Juice is another way that liquids are colored green. Green food coloring is considered one of the easiest colors to pigment as it is very distinctive and just a little bit will create a brightly colored green.


Eating foods that are heavily dyed, especially frostings, cakes and beverages are known to leave the teeth the same color for a period of time after consumption. Green foods available for St. Patrick’s Day can cause the teeth to develop an unhealthy looking green sheen that is noticeable for several hours after being eaten. Although the green color left behind on teeth can be unattractive, it is not something that needs to be concerned about over a long period of time. Food coloring stains are not permanent, and for the most part, removing them just requires a thorough brushing. Although green teeth are impermanent, teeth will begin to dull and yellow from food coloring if consumed frequently. The only way in which staining can become more permanent is if the food coloring on its own is applied to teeth directly and left there for many hours.

Avoiding stains

The few hours of green teeth staining can be avoided when following a proper oral hygiene routine. Brushing teeth and rinsing with mouthwash regularly can help to avoid teeth staining because the stain occurs from the coloring sticking to plaque buildup on the teeth. Clean, healthy teeth are harder to stain than those that are not. Additionally, brushing teeth immediately after consuming a green-colored food or beverage can help to remove the temporary staining much more quickly than waiting for it to come off the teeth. Staying hydrated and drinking a lot of water also can help to reduce staining by wiping the teeth clean of the chemical compound in dyes.

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