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You may love your coffee, but your teeth aren’t quite as fond of your morning cup of joe. Coffee is highly acidic. Over time, the acids in coffee can wear away the enamel and make your teeth prone to damage and decay. While long-term damage and decay is bad, the part that really gets to most people is on the surface. Coffee stains your teeth, and while stained teeth may not be as bad for your health as worn enamel, it’s far more noticeable. Luckily, there are ways to deal with coffee stains on your teeth, and even ways to keep coffee from staining your teeth in the first place. But before we get to that, let’s talk about how coffee stains your teeth in the first place.
Your teeth may look and feel smooth and hard, but in reality, tooth enamel is pitted with microscopic ridges and pits. These tiny crevices are just the right size to trap minuscule bits of food and drink and hold them against the surface. The tannins and pigments that give coffee its rich, brown color stain surfaces – coffee is a great dye, for what its worth – and the longer those substances remain in contact with your teeth, the darker they stain. Oh, and just in case you were thinking you could avoid the worst of the staining by drinking your coffee with milk or cream – it does make coffee lighter, after all — nope. Adding milk to coffee may make it look lighter in the mug, but the tannins and other acids are still present in full strength, and will still stain your teeth just as much.
The only surefire way of preventing coffee stains on your teeth is to not drink coffee at all. That’s just not an option for most coffee lovers, so the folks at Crest (one of the world’s leading producers of teeth cleaning products) offer these tips to minimize coffee-stained teeth.
Coffee can only stain if it actually comes in contact with your teeth. When you sip through a straw, you minimize coffee-to-tooth contact by delivering the beverage past them and directly to the back of your mouth. That’s a reasonable solution for drinking iced coffee, but may not work as well when drinking your java hot.
When you sip coffee throughout the day, you’re constantly bathing the tooth enamel in dye. Instead, Crest recommends, drink your coffee at specific times – coffee break, after meals or other similar times – and immediately after finishing, rinse your mouth and teeth with water, or brush your teeth to remove the coffee residue from them.
If you’re an all-day coffee drinker, consider keeping a glass or jug of water at your desk as well. Take the time periodically through the day to sip the water, swishing it around and through your teeth to remove as much of the coffee particles as possible.
Make a point of brushing your teeth frequently throughout the day rather than waiting until after meals. Remember, the less time coffee spends trapped against the surface of your teeth, the less staining you’ll have to deal with.
Plaque is a buildup of calcified bacteria that sticks to the surface of your teeth. It’s even more prone to staining than your tooth enamal or the teeth themselves. Regular brushing, flossing and rinsing helps reduce plaque, and regular visits to the dentist can remove stubborn plaque that doesn’t respond to less intensive methods.
Despite your best efforts, there’s a good chance that coffee with still stain your teeth. The steps you take to remove those stains depend upon how bad the stains are.
Brush your teeth with a tooth-whitening toothpaste and rinse with whitening mouthwash. If the results aren’t satisfactory, consider an at-home whitening kit, or talk to your dentist about professional tooth whitening.
Don’t forget that crowns, fillings and implants are not made of the same substance as your natural teeth, and won’t respond to the same tooth whitening methods as they do. Once your teeth are a satisfactory color, talk to your dentist about replacing them with matching replacements.