What to Do About Coffee- and Tea-Stained Teeth

If you're like most Canadian adults, you enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with breakfast, throughout the day or as an after-dinner treat. Coffee and tea both have several health benefits: they give you a boost of energy, improve your mood and supply your body with much-needed antioxidants. However, depending on how much tea or coffee you drink, one part of your body might pay an unfortunate price: your teeth.


Tea and coffee both have properties that discolour your teeth over time. This doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to a tea- or coffee-free life, though. In our blog below, we'll talk about why this discolouration happens and what you can do to minimize the damage.


Why and How Coffee and Tea Stain Teeth

To understand why coffee and tea stain your teeth, you need to understand a few basics of your teeth's makeup. Your tooth's interior is called the pulp. Since the pulp's nerves convey cold, hot and painful sensations from your tooth to your brain, it needs a solid layer of protection. This comes in the form of the enamel, or the hard, outer surface of your teeth.


When you run your tongue over your teeth's surfaces, they seem entirely smooth. In reality, even though enamel is the hardest tissue in your entire body (it's even stronger than your bones!), it's also porous. The enamel's pores, ridges, and bumps are microscopic, so you can't see them with your naked eye. Regardless, they trap food and drink particles—including coloured pigments from your tea and coffee.


Your enamel's number one job is to protect your teeth from damage. This is one reason why drinks like soda are so damaging: the acid wears away your enamel, which makes the rest of your tooth susceptible to decay. Your enamel also serves a cosmetic purpose, though. Its colour is what gives you a pearly white smile. As the enamel weakens with age or as you expose your enamel to drinks like tea or coffee, it often becomes stained a yellow or brown colour.


Even though they have a similar effect on your teeth, coffee and tea stain your teeth in different ways:


Coffee
As coffee's dark pigments get stuck in your enamels' ridges, they gradually change your teeth's colour. You might think that choosing a light roast over a dark roast would lessen your chances of tooth staining. Actually, no matter how light or dark the coffee, it often produces the same tooth-staining results. Similarly, your chances of tooth stains don't decrease if you add cream to your coffee, unless you substantially reduce the amount of coffee in your cup and replace it with cream or milk.


Tea
Even though coffee often looks darker than tea, tea is more likely to stain your teeth than coffee. This is because tea contains more tannins than coffee. A tannin is an organic compound found in plants, including those that produce black, white, green, and other teas. It's what gives tea its colour—the darker the tea, the more tannins it contains.


Tannins can benefit your body in many ways. In particular, they help the proteins in your body maintain their structure and function correctly. However, too many tannins can increase your risk of liver disease and blood clots, especially if you have a personal or family history of these problems. Tannins can also interfere with your body's ability to absorb iron. And, of course, they also stain your teeth a deep yellow colour.


To balance tannins' good and bad effects, consume them in moderation. You can also skip black teas and consume more white and Darjeeling teas. If you have any of the above health problems, talk to your doctor about your tannin consumption and follow his or her recommendations about how much tea you should consume.


How to Deal with Coffee and Tea Stains
Obviously, the best way to reduce tooth staining from coffee or tea is to stop drinking them altogether. However, most coffee and tea drinkers don't find that to be an acceptable solution. Instead of giving up your favourite morning beverage, try these tips to keep your teeth bright and white:


Cut Your Consumption
You might not need to give up coffee or tea entirely, but if you're the kind of person who always has a hot mug in your hand, you might want to think about cutting back. Instead of visiting the office coffeepot every hour, try having a cup of coffee or tea just three times a day—once with every meal.


Drink in One Sitting, Not Throughout the Day
Instead of sipping coffee or tea from your thermos all day long, drink the entire cup in one go. This means your teeth are only exposed to tooth-staining agents once instead of all day long.


Brush and Floss
Make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss your teeth at least once a day. This helps remove tooth-staining particles from in between your teeth and on your teeth's surfaces.


Visit Your Dentist

When you visit your dentist, you get a deep cleaning that removes the stains that have accumulated over the past six months. Dental visits also help you avoid tooth decay and damage. To keep your teeth looking their best, visit your dentist regularly.


For more tips on how to prevent tooth stains, talk to your Edmonton dentist during your next semi-annual visit.

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