How To Prevent Coffee Stains On Teeth

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

December 8, 2023

coffee stains on teeth, cosmetic dentistry, dental care, tips to avoid coffee stains on teeth

Whether you can’t start your day without a cup of coffee, fancy yourself a coffee connoisseur, or depend on the caffeine as a pick-me-up when you lose steam in the afternoon, coffee drinkers share one thing in common: They likely have coffee stains on their teeth. Although you might think your tooth colour is natural, if you enjoy at least one cup of coffee each day, chances are your teeth are naturally a lot whiter than they currently are. Here we look at coffee stains on teeth, what causes them, and how to help prevent them to maintain a brilliantly whiter smile. 

Are Coffee Stains On Teeth Permanent?

A close up of a woman's teeth before and after teeth whitening.

Luckily the answer is no. Coffee stains on your teeth can be removed using a number of methods, including whitening toothpastes, teeth whitening kits, and professional whitening treatments performed by your dentist. 

What Causes Coffee Stains On Teeth?

A cup of coffee is being poured over coffee beans.

Coffee contains a polyphenol called tannins. You might recognize the name, as it is also found in wine and tea. It’s no coincidence that both these beverages are also teeth-staining culprits. The colour components in tannins stick to your teeth, creating a yellowish tint. With each cup of coffee you drink, that colour deepens and becomes more noticeable.

The deep brown colour of coffee penetrates the tiny pits in tooth enamel, and with the help of tannins, the pigments are captured so they stick to the pits. The more cups of coffee you drink, and the more you sip coffee throughout the day, the quicker your teeth will yellow.  

Is Coffee Bad For Teeth?

A cup of coffee on a wooden table.

This is an ongoing debate. Despite the staining powers of coffee, there are some benefits to enjoying coffee once a day. A study found that when enjoyed black, coffee’s antibacterial properties can help prevent cavities. However, drinking several cups a day with additives like cream and sugar is not recommended. There are a few reasons for this. First, coffee is acidic, which means it can damage tooth enamel.

If you drink several cups of coffee, it can speed up tooth enamel erosion. As your enamel thins, the coffee can stain your teeth more easily, which means your teeth stains will be much more noticeable. Worse yet, you will also increase the risk of tooth decay due to the thinning enamel. So, enjoy your coffee black once a day to benefit from its antibacterial powers without the risk of harm from the acid. 

Is Coffee Good For Overall Health?

A man and woman sitting on a couch drinking coffee.

Many coffee drinkers enjoy the beverage due to its health benefits which include lower risk for the following conditions:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Liver cancer
  • Endometrial cancers
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Depression

Knowing this, some coffee drinkers are willing to risk staining, to reap the health benefits. 

How To Prevent Coffee Stains On Teeth

A collage of pictures showing a man brushing his teeth with a cup of coffee.

Of course, the obvious way to prevent coffee stains on teeth is to quit drinking coffee altogether. However, you can also cut down on the number of cups you drink each day. Ideally, you should limit your coffee to one cup a day. If this isn’t an option, you can try these tips instead:

  • Choose black coffee: Although you would think drinking your coffee with cream or milk products would reduce the staining effects, it actually speeds up the staining process. Avoid both milk products and sugar to discourage bacteria growth that contributes to discolouration.
  • Avoid sipping your coffee: Slowly savouring every sip of coffee also contributes to deeper staining. Avoid sipping coffee throughout the day, and instead, drink your single cup of coffee at once. This will prevent that bacteria buildup.
  • Drink water after coffee: Once your cup of coffee is finished, follow up with a glass of water to rinse the staining tannins away.
  • Choose iced coffee with a straw: Iced coffee is very popular, especially in the summer. Consider enjoying iced coffee, which you can drink with a straw to minimize contact with your teeth.
  • Brush 30 minutes after coffee: Wait at least 30 minutes after drinking coffee, then rinse your mouth with water and brush your teeth to help remove tannins. Don’t brush right away, as the brush will force the tannins further into your teeth, giving the staining powers a boost. It also weakens tooth enamel.
  • Enjoy healthier snacks: Eating more raw fruits and vegetables helps control bacteria that contribute to staining. Strawberries are an excellent choice for a healthy, tooth-friendly snack as they contain natural fibers that help break down bacteria. However, don’t scrub your teeth with strawberries as some popular online trends suggest to do, as this forces the citric acid in the fruit into your teeth, which damages your tooth enamel.  

How To Get Rid Of Coffee Stains On Teeth

A row of teeth on a blue background.

There are several ways you can help reduce the appearance of coffee stains, including:

  • Healthy snacks: We mentioned this as a tip to help prevent stains, but it also helps remove stains. The fibers in raw fruits and vegetables have natural scrubbing powers to remove stains and break down bacteria that add to stains.
  • Use whitening toothpaste: Ask your dentist to recommend a whitening toothpaste. They contain mild abrasives that help you remove the pigments. It won’t act as a one-day solution where you’ll see a dramatic change in colour. Instead, it will continue to keep the pigments to a minimum if you enjoy coffee every day.
  • Baking soda toothpaste: We wouldn’t recommend using baking soda toothpaste daily. However, using it a few times a month can help remove the stains. You can also make a home stain remover using one part baking soda to two parts hydrogen peroxide and brush your teeth to help remove tough stains.
  • Over-the-counter teeth whitening strips: Over-the-counter teeth whitening strips are available at your local drug store. They are quite effective stain removers, but they can also cause tooth sensitivity. Speak to your dentist before using home whitening treatments to make sure they won’t cause other dental issues. Also, keep in mind they can also create an uneven tone to teeth if not used properly or if you have restorations such as crowns, veneers, or bonding.
  • Regular dental checkups and cleanings: Your regular dental cleanings and checkups maintain oral health while keeping your teeth looking their best. Although professional cleaning won’t remove stains completely, they will make a difference. Also, you can discuss whitening treatments with your dentist and find the best solution for your needs.
  • Professional teeth whitening: This is the most effective way to remove coffee stains from your teeth. Your dentist will assess your teeth and determine what treatment is best for your needs. Although professional teeth whitening is not recommended for everyone, and improper use can cause sensitivity, a discussion with your dentist will provide solutions to help whiten your smile.

Give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.

Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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