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Updated on December 12, 2022
5 min read

Why Do Coffee and Tea Stain Your Teeth?

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Many people rely on drinking a cup of coffee or tea to kick-start their day. However, this morning routine can affect your dental health. If a cup of coffee or tea can stain your clothes, it can stain your teeth.

Coffee contains tannins. Tannins are a form of polyphenols that break down in water. They are also present in drinks like wine and tea.

Tannins cause color compounds to linger on your teeth. When these compounds stick to your teeth, they can leave a yellow or brown stain. It only takes drinking one cup of coffee a day to stain your teeth.

person pouring coffee into mug

8 Ways to Avoid Tea and Coffee Stains on Teeth

The most effective way to prevent stained teeth is to stop drinking coffee in excess. However, if you do decide to continue drinking tea and coffee, there are some ways to avoid staining.

teeth discoloration

1. Drink Water 

Drink a glass of water after your morning coffee or tea to rinse your teeth and mouth. This can help the tannins wash away rather than linger on your tooth surfaces.

2. Use a Straw

If you drink iced tea or coffee, sip through an eco-friendly straw to reduce the risk of stains. Drinking through a straw minimizes the contact your teeth have with the drink.  

3. Rinse, Then Brush

Rinse your mouth with water after drinking tea and coffee. Then, brush your teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste approximately 30 minutes after finishing your beverage.

Waiting 30 minutes to brush after rinsing allows your mouth time to neutralize the acidity left in your mouth from coffee. If you brush too soon, enamel that has been weakened by coffee or tea can become damaged.

4. Eat Certain Foods 

Eating certain kinds of food can help prevent stains. Raw fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and lemons, have natural fibers that clean teeth by breaking down bacteria.

5. Drink Less Coffee

Cut back on your coffee intake by drinking less. If you tend to drink more than one cup of coffee a day, try having just one in the morning. 

6. Avoid Creamer and Sugar 

Cream and sugar speed up the growth of bacteria in your mouth and lead to an increased risk of tooth decay, which can be brown, black, or yellow.

7. Drink In One Sitting

Enjoy coffee or tea in one sitting rather than taking small sips during an extended period to prevent bacteria buildup.

8. Opt for Drinks With Lower Caffeine

Drink coffee or tea with less caffeine content. Less caffeine equals fewer polyphenols. Polyphenols are naturally occurring organic compounds that include the chemical tannins, which can cause compounds to stick to your teeth. Fewer polyphenols mean less staining.

Other Oral Health Effects of Coffee and Tea

Coffee and tea can cause other unpleasant effects on oral health. These include:

  • Overgrowth of bacteria
  • Enamel erosion, which makes teeth thin and brittle
  • Bad breath or halitosis

Does Coffee Cause Tooth Decay?

Coffee is very acidic, so drinking a lot of it can result in enamel erosion. Some teas are more acidic than others.

Substances high in acidity are more likely to weaken the enamel of your teeth.As the enamel wears away, the dentin layer that coats your teeth is exposed. This results in a darkened yellow or brown appearance. Tooth enamel preserves teeth by protecting them against decay and sensitivity.

Other Substances That Stain Teeth

Coffee and tea are not the only substances that stain teeth. Other foods and drinks can also leave behind a brown or yellow stain.

These include:

  • Red wine
  • Berries, including blueberries, blackberries, and cherries
  • Tomato and tomato sauces
  • Colas
  • Colored popsicles
  • Hard candy
  • Sports drinks

What Kind of Tea Stains Your Teeth?

Tea may be more likely to stain your teeth than coffee because of its higher tannin content. Tannins are a chemical found naturally in organic foods that promote staining because they attract compounds and cause them to stick on enamel.

Many black, green, and herbal teas contain tannins that stain teeth and gums. 

Green tea leaves a gray stain on teeth. Black tea leaves yellowish marks. Even herbal teas like chamomile and hibiscus can cause staining.

How to Remove Coffee and Tea Stains From Teeth

Fortunately, there are ways to remove coffee stains from teeth. These include:

At-Home Teeth Whitening Options

Many over-the-counter products can help whiten teeth at home. These include:

  • Over-the-counter whitening Strips, gel trays, and LED whitening kits — Whiten beneath-the-surface stains and break up stains in your enamel. 
  • Whitening toothpastes — Contain abrasive ingredients that help remove stains from the surface of your teeth.
  • Whitening mouthwashes — Contain bleaching agents that can help remove surface stains from your teeth if you use them regularly.

Whitening products that have the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance are proven to be effective and safe for use.

Coffee drinkers can also use some home remedies to whiten their teeth, including:

  • Brushing the teeth with baking soda twice a month
  • Using a manual toothbrush rather than an electric toothbrush
  • Coconut oil pulling

Although many of these natural remedies have been around for a long time, proper scientific research is still needed to determine their effectiveness.

Professional Teeth Whitening Options

If you're looking for a more effective and immediate solution, consider professional whitening.

The concentration of professional whitening gel is more potent than that of at-home whitening treatments. This means you will notice instant results.

For some people, tooth whitening gel can lead to temporary sensitivity. Your dentist can take extra precautions to ensure the soft tissues of your mouth don't become irritated.

At-home whitening gels prescribed by dentists contain higher concentrations of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. They also come with custom trays for more effective and comfortable whitening.

Summary

  • Both coffee and tea stain your teeth due to their tannin content
  • Coffee is highly acidic, which means your tooth enamel can dissolve over time if you drink it excessively
  • To avoid some staining, drink less coffee and rinse after finishing your beverage
  • If you have stained teeth from coffee or tea, consider at-home whitening options or getting your teeth professionally whitened by a dentist

Last updated on December 12, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 12, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Pandey, Kanti Bhooshan, et al. “Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2009.
  2. Mori, Aline Akemi, et al. “Susceptibility to Coffee Staining during Enamel Remineralization Following the In-Office Bleaching Technique: An In Situ Assessment.” Journal of esthetic and restorative dentistry, 2016.
  3. Liporoni, Priscila Christiane Suzy, et al. “Enamel susceptibility to coffee and red wine staining at different intervals elapsed from bleaching: a photoreflectance spectrophotometry analysis.” Photomedicine and laser surgery, 2010.
  4. Karadas, Muhammet, and Nilgun Seven. “The effect of different drinks on tooth color after home bleaching.” European journal of dentistry, 2014.
  5. Epple, Matthias, et al. “A Critical Review of Modern Concepts for Teeth Whitening.” Dentistry journal, 2019.
  6. João Victor Frazão, et al. “Effect of tooth enamel staining by coffee consumption during at-home tooth bleaching with carbamide peroxide.” Rev Odontol UNESP, 2020.
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