When the weather gets cold and snowy, it’s only natural to want to drink hot drinks like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. They warm you up and make you feel comfortable. The caffeine in many hot beverages can also give you the added energy you need when the days are short and gray. Drinking some hot drinks can stain your teeth, however, so you should be conscious of what you are drinking and how much.
Some Hot Drinks Stain Your Teeth
Not all hot drinks stain your teeth. If you heat up water and drink it, obviously that will not cause staining. The heat will cause the enamel of your teeth to be more vulnerable to staining and cracking, however. Damage to the enamel can cause tooth sensitivity as well, especially when you drink very hot or very cold beverages.
The tannins found in drinks like coffee, tea, and wine are what cause staining. Tannins are bitter and astringent chemical compounds found in natural substances such as tree bark, leaves, legumes, and fruits such as grapes. They bind with proteins, including those in saliva. They function to stop animals from eating the unripe seeds or fruits they are found in by creating a bitter taste when consumed.
Your tooth enamel is porous and will absorb the dark colored tannins. If you drink coffee, tea, or wine regularly, your teeth will most likely become stained over time.
Hot Drinks Can Also Cause Tooth Decay
Because tannin-rich substances like coffee are naturally bitter, we have a habit of sweetening them with sugar. Sugar provides the bacteria in your mouth with enough sustenance to proliferate. The acids these bacteria produce will eat away at the enamel of your teeth. Coffee is also naturally acidic, so there is a double danger there.
Heat, acid, and sugar are all destructive forces in your mouth, so you should monitor how many hot drinks you are consuming per day or per week. If possible, limit how much sugar or other sweeteners you add to them. Try putting less and less sugar into your coffee until you find it’s not pleasant to drink and then add what you need to make it palatable. We often add more sugar than we need to out of habit. That’s bad for our teeth and our waistlines.
One way to help protect your teeth from hot drinks is to drink them using a straw. This will limit contact with your teeth. Another good habit is to regularly brush your teeth throughout the day. This helps remove bacteria from your teeth and remove tannins before they can be absorbed by your enamel. If you can’t brush your teeth because you are at work or on the go, drink water throughout the day to wash away tannins before they stain your teeth.
It’s winter. Dentists understand the urge to warm up with a nice, hot cup of tea or coffee when it’s cold out. But if you want to protect your teeth, you will limit your consumption of hot drinks to a reasonable amount and take care to regularly brush your teeth and rinse out your mouth. If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity when you drink hot drinks, consult your dentist at your next dental checkup. He will let you know what steps to take to eliminate your pain or discomfort. He can also recommend steps to take to remove stains and whiten your smile.