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Truths and Myths about Tooth Discolouration and Coffee Stains

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

What is the cause of teeth staining? A quick online search will likely yield more answers than anyone has time to read through, given there are about one million ‘answers’ on Google. So we’ve broken down common misconceptions that cause tooth discolouration (staining) from coffee and other dietary fads.

Why is coffee suddenly staining my teeth?

Why is coffee suddenly staining my teeth? It’s no surprise that coffee is one of the most popular beverages around the world. From 2020-2021, around 166.63 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee were consumed worldwide.

Two lattes sitting on a wooden serving try. The cup on the left is red and the other is white. There is cutlery between them and two plates of baked goods on the table nearby.

Many people start their day with a hot cup of coffee and end their day with espresso after dinner; plus there are iced coffees, lattes, and cappuccinos to indulge in throughout the day.

Since coffee drinks are increasingly popular, their health benefits and drawbacks have been under debate for years. So, what’s the truth about coffee’s effect on teeth stains and oral health?

The truth about teeth stains from coffee.

Drinking coffee on the regular will eventually stain your teeth. Dental enamel is fairly fragile; it is especially vulnerable to surface stains from meals and drinks containing deeper colours (aka coffee).

We’re sorry to say, but coffee actually contains high concentrations of the three main culprits of tooth discoloration:

  • Chromogens: pigment-carrying substances that attach to tooth enamel and discolour it over time.

  • Tannins: antioxidants that give some beverages a dark hue and a bitter flavour.

  • Acids: weaken enamel, allowing discolouration to occur easier.

You might be thinking, “but isn't enamel one of the hardest surfaces in the body?” – the answer is yes, but highly pigmented food and drinks are its weakness. It’s not just coffee; several dietary fads affect the whiteness of teeth.

Coffee, unfortunately, affects other areas of oral health too: it slows down saliva production which can cause bad breath and contributes to plaque build-up (mostly from the sugars and creams used).

But, drinking coffee isn’t all bad, which leads us to the myths.

Myths surrounding coffee and oral health.

Coffee drinks have a bad rep in oral health, but coffee being substantially worse for your teeth than other drinks/foods is a myth.

Many foods and drink products cause bacteria, teeth staining, and other dental problems, but it’s more about what you do to care for your oral health. Drinking water, promoting saliva production, brushing your teeth, flossing, and visiting your dentist will reduce the harmful effects of everyday life.

This is true for tea as well: there is an ongoing debate on if tea is better for you than coffee, and guess what? There isn’t a definite answer because, like most health fads and choices, it greatly depends on what you’re specifically drinking and your specific body.

But, just like coffee, black tea like Earl Grey also contains high levels of chromogens, tannins, and acids – the three main culprits of teeth staining.

Does coffee permanently stain teeth?

Teeth stains from coffee are not permanent; with proper hygiene, they will gradually reduce. That’s not to say that you can drink 4+ cups and maintain a bright, white smile forever, but there are ways to regain your pearly whites.

If you currently have stained teeth, we have the top five tips for getting whiter teeth, or you can go ahead and book a consultation with a dentist at LifeSmiles Dental Corp. We’d love to discuss a teeth whitening plan with you or any other oral health concerns.

Good food for the teeth? The truth and myths about dietary fads.

We've all heard rumours like wine red is bad for your teeth, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, gargle with apple cider vinegar, stay away from sugary snacks, and the list goes on and on. While it seems like dietary fads are always changing, do any of them have truth to their theory?

Staining is caused primarily by the effects of acids created by bacteria that thrive in your mouth. These acids are often from foods eaten or beverages consumed. There are several rumours surrounding what foods benefit teeth whitening and which foods provoke discolouration. So, what's the truth and what are the myths about food/drinks discolouring teeth?

A dark wooden table full of food and drinks. There is a salad, pasta dish, breaded items and more.

The truth about dietary fads and teeth discolouration.

Let's start with soda; this is the big one of course. Yes, drinking soda can contribute to teeth staining as it weakens enamel due to its low pH levels. Plus, soda and carbonated drinks are acidic – and it’s not just the sugary ones.

Diet sodas aren’t benefiting your oral health either: they cause discolouration and are known to increase the potential of gingivitis. If you’re worried about your oral health, limit your consumption or skip out on soda drinks altogether.

So are healthy foods like fruits and vegetables safe to eat? The honest truth, even foods encouraged by dieticians and health professionals can eventually stain your teeth. The worst food for your teeth is items that contain artificial colours or are acidic. These types of food are more likely to cause discolouration at a quicker rate.

Ultimately, prioritizing an oral hygiene routine is your best bet to fight teeth staining.

Myths surrounding teeth discolouration and dietary fads.

Red wine causes staining, but white wine doesn't: MYTH. We’re sorry to say, no wine drinkers are safe from potential staining. Wine, like coffee, includes tannins that can cause enamel degradation.

Yes, white wine lacks intensity in colour, but its acidic levels don’t differ greatly from red wines and rosés. Wine's acidity levels, like vinegar, are not affected by its colour. The hue is not causing the discoloration per se, but research has shown that white wine dissolves a thin, protective coating around teeth, which means you’re more susceptible to stains from other foods/beverages.

Does a strawberry-baking soda mix really whiten teeth? Most likely not. There is limited research on this teeth whitening method, but a University of Iowa dental researcher debunked it.

The dental researcher didn’t find any authentic whitening properties of this mix but did admit your teeth may seem whiter because you’re removing plaque accumulation. Strawberries and other fruits lack hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, which are the main components of teeth-whitening methods.

How do I remove teeth stains and keep a white smile?

The dentists at LifeSmiles Dental Corp are committed to your oral health goals; if you want a brighter, whiter smile – we’re happy to come up with an effective plan that fits your budget.

We understand that teeth whitening services or at-home kits aren’t financially possible for everyone, but the first step to a whiter smile is discussing what causes your teeth stains. Knowing if your discolouration is intrinsic or extrinsic will determine your oral hygiene routine.

LifeSmiles Dental Corp has six locations across Manitoba, and we offer evening and weekend appointments. Give us a call or book your appointment online!

A man and woman smiling, eating breakfast and drinking coffee. They are standing in side of an apartment near a large window.

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