The caffeine culprits of tooth stainingFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 2nd March 2018
People with particularly dull teeth often seek to brighten their smile through non-invasive cosmetic procedures such as tooth whitening, which are now proving to be an incredibly popular dental treatment. Only the most effective tooth whitening systems give patients the freedom to eat and drink whatever they wish, without affecting the overall colour of their teeth before, during, and after treatment.
However, although many people in the UK are particularly image conscious, they do not always stop to think how their favourite hot coffee beverages could affect their teeth. There is no doubt that a cursory glance down your local high street will prove that we are now a nation of coffee addicts. In fact, Britons consume approximately 70 million cups of coffee every day.[i] We are all familiar with the frequent commuter habit of grabbing a coffee from the local café on the way to work, or sneaking away from the desk to take a quick coffee break. Since the recession hit and stripped the high streets of some retail shops, cafés have established themselves as an alternative place to socialise and work. This, combined with a demand for fast food, the closure of pubs, and the emergence of a ‘foodie’ culture, has further fuelled Britain’s love affair with coffee.
As practitioners are aware, teeth can become discoloured by stains on the surface or by physical changes inside the tooth. Microscopic pits and ridges exist in the enamel, similar to that of pores in the skin. Over time, molecules from food and drink become embedded deep inside the tooth, gradually getting bigger and darker which causes extrinsic discolouration.
The enamel on teeth behaves similarly to the way in which a piece of pottery ages, and often has fine cracks in its surface that become stained over time. Unknown to many are the factors that can cause extrinsic discolouration:
- Chromogens are intensely pigmented molecules that quickly latch on to dental enamel
- Tannins are plant-based compounds that make it easier for teeth to stain
- Acids are a substance that erode and soften enamel
These three basic elements are the culprits to discoloured teeth, and they are found in much of what many people consume on a regular basis. What some people may not realise is that these substances can still stain the teeth even after some whitening treatment – that’s why it’s essential to use only the very best whitening products.
Unfortunately for caffeine lovers everywhere, coffee and tea contain tannins and acidic properties that damage teeth, and can result in staining. If you have ever brewed a cup of extra strong black tea longer than recommended, you will have immediately noticed a bitter taste in the middle of your tongue from your first sip, and a dryness in the front of your mouth, indicative of tannins. Black tea, in particular, is incredibly tannin-rich, which makes it a more potent tooth staining substance than coffee.
Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought to be healthy for hearts.[ii] However, it is also very acidic, contains lots of tannins and, as its deep purple colour suggests, is high in chromogens. Contrary to what some might believe, white wine can be equally as harsh on teeth, despite its lighter colour. As practitioners know, patients that consume fizzy drinks may also notice their teeth turning yellow over time because of the acidic qualities in lemon-lime flavoured fizzy drinks, as well as the chromogens found in dark cola. All fizzy drinks maintain the same level of acidic properties, which break down the enamel and make teeth more prone to discolouration.
Heavily pigmented food like dark fruits (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and blackberries), beetroots, or even ketchup, can stain teeth. The pigment in curry powder can also turn teeth yellow over time, even though it is not dark in colour. A good rule of thumb to follow is that food that would stain clothes will do the same thing to teeth. Nevertheless, people need not worry that they should give up their favourite snacks and drinks, as long as they maintain a good oral health regime that includes brushing teeth regularly, and attending routine dental appointments.
Additionally, there are tooth whitening treatments that can eliminate stains entirely. These options include home-based products such as toothpastes, gels, and films, as well as in-practice based systems where products containing highly concentrated bleaching agents are applied under professional supervision.[iii] The Enlighten Whitening system, for example, employs a combination of both in-practice whitening and at-home procedures to guarantee a Vita shade B1 for every patient. What’s more, this impressive result is achievable without any change in a patient’s diet during or after treatment.
Britons love sipping their early morning coffees, but it is a pleasure that should be enjoyed in moderation. Practitioners should make it their priority to inform patients of their responsibilities towards maintaining good oral health, in order to achieve a dazzling smile that lasts a lifetime.
[i] Buddy Loans. (2015) How much is your coffee addiction costing you. Link: https://www.buddyloans.com/blog/how-much-is-your-coffee-addiction-costing-you/. [Last accessed: 13.12.17].
[ii] Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016) Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart? Link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281. [Last accessed: 13.12.17].
[iii] Carey, C. (2014) Tooth Whitening: What We Now Know. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058574/. [Last accessed: 13.12.2017].
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