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  • Writer's pictureKelly White

Why Does Coffee Stain Teeth?

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

Do you have a coffee habit? Most adults – and plenty of teens – rely on coffee to wake them up in the morning and give them the energy they need to tackle their work. Every day Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee. Coffee is an effective stimulant, but it can have some drawbacks, including staining teeth. Why does coffee stain your teeth, and what can you do about it? We’ll answer these questions here.

Why Does Coffee Stain Your Teeth?

Coffee stains for two reasons. The first is that coffee contains chemical compounds called tannins that stain materials that will absorb them. The second is that the enamel on your teeth, while very hard, is porous. It’s scored with pits and ridges vulnerable to penetration by tannins. When the two come together, stains occur. The more often you drink coffee; the darker your teeth will become. Some people have naturally white teeth, and others naturally yellow teeth, but nearly everyone’s teeth are vulnerable to staining if they drink enough coffee, tea, soda, or red wine.

Drinking coffee with creamer or milk or any other “lighter” version of coffee won’t prevent staining either, as those same tannins are present, even in smaller amounts. Tea seems like a lighter beverage than coffee, certainly more than black coffee. Still, tea contains tannins and other compounds like theaflavins, thearubigins, and thebrownins which contribute to plaque buildup. Interestingly enough, green tea contains more tannins than black or white teas.

How Can You Prevent Coffee Staining?

The only way to prevent staining is to give up beverages and foods containing tannins or other staining compounds. However, most people want a reasonable solution to this problem. The key is to drink your coffee during specific periods rather than continuously all day long. When you’ve finished your tea or coffee, rinse your mouth with water or brush your teeth to remove the tannins before your enamel can absorb them. Using a whitening toothpaste will also help. Scheduling regular cleanings with your dentist is another great way to remove surface stains from your teeth.

We’ve discussed options for whitening if your teeth are already stained and you do not like their color. Talk to your dental hygienist during your next dental visit and ask about what you can do at home or in the dentist’s office to get your teeth in tip-top and white shape. There are solutions. You do not have to resign to giving up coffee or smiling with your mouth closed to hide your stained teeth from the world.

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