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Tea and coffee staining your teeth? Here's what to do

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

tea and coffee staining your teeth

Lots of people search the Internet for teeth whitening solutions, however there are a variety of ways to overcome staining, particularly if it's caused by food and drink. You can save yourself the cost of more expensive teeth whitening treatments through removing surface stains that remain after you eat and drink certain foods that are high in tannins. This blog looks into the main suspects in staining - tea and coffee - and how you can help tackle stains yourself. 

What causes stains on teeth?

When our teeth get darker, it can be down to stains building up on the surface of our teeth. This happens naturally with age and particular foods are more likely to stain than others. Other factors can contribute. Smoking, for example, leads to teeth becoming yellow from the tobacco. Also, teeth that have had trauma and are cracked as a result are more susceptible to picking up stains.

Does tea stain more than coffee?

In a study conducted in 2014, researchers took a sample of 45 teeth which have had teeth whitening and exposed them to a variety of drinks including coffee, tea, cola and red wine - all which are notorious for leaving stains - and not just on teeth! The study found that there was a statistical difference with tea, cola and red wine. Coffee, however, doesn’t have as much of an effect. As a result, we advise that following tooth whitening treatment, it’s best for patients to avoid red wine, tea and cola.

Stain removal with your dental hygienist

A big cause of teeth looking darker after drinking coffee isn’t down to the enamel becoming stained, but the plaque. When the plaque over your teeth hardens into tartar between your teeth, it forms a layer which can attract more stains as tartar is more porous than the natural tooth structure. The good news is that this tartar can easily be removed by visiting your dental hygienist and then maintaining a good oral hygiene routine to keep your pearly whites white.

How to make your teeth look whiter without visiting the dentist

There are few things you can do at home to keep your teeth looking as white as possible.

  • Brushing Your Teeth. The best way to keep your teeth as white possible is to brush your teeth daily for 2 min with the fluoride containing toothpaste. Clean in between your teeth once per day using floss or an interdental brush and rinse after meals with a fluoride mouthwash. This will prevent tooth decay, reduce the amount of tartar in between your teeth and keep your teeth as close to their natural colour as possible.

  • Chew gum after meals. Chewing sugarfree gum after a meal can help to stimulate saliva production in your mouth, this neutralises the acid attack on your teeth and thereby reduces the likelihood of dark teeth caused by dental decay.

  • Use whitening toothpaste. Whilst these will never whiten as much as a dedicated teeth whitening treatment (they just don't contain enough active agent) they can still help to keep your teeth looking bright and white.

And one final tip… If you are able wear red lipstick, lipstick can really help to increase the white looking nature of your teeth… Make up artists in the fashion world use this trick often.

red lipstick to make teeth look whiter

Image credit: Miki Hayes 2.19.15

How do dentists whiten teeth?

The first course of action for any dentist when they come to whiten your teeth  is to look at your oral hygiene and where the tooth discolouration is happening. Sometimes, just having a scale & polish from your dental hygienist will make enough of a difference to help with your self-confidence. Hygienists remove dark tartar that gathered in the gaps between your teeth and around the gum line. Air abrasion uses a special instrument which blasts fine sand onto the surface of your tooth can help to remove surface discolouration. When this is coupled with cleaning in between your teeth by the dental hygienist to remove the tartar it can have a dramatic effect on health white your teeth look.

Once your teeth are cleaned and any surface stains have been removed then your dentist can consider whitening the actual colour of your teeth. This involves using a hydrogen peroxide gel which is placed into a custom made bleaching tray, this fits accurately over the surface of your teeth holding the gel in contact with your teeth and preventing it from touching the delicate gum area.

You will typically wear this bleaching tray overnight for up to a week in order to lighten your tooth enamel so that it reaches the desired whiteness.

Is teeth whitening permanent?

After your teeth have been whitened with bleaching they will slowly darken over the following months and years. Generally speaking they don't go back to their former whitening colour and will stay permanently lighter however you will probably notice they aren't is white as they were when you first had the tooth discoloration treated by teeth whitening.

Can whitening your teeth damage them? Why?

Teeth whitening itself will not damage your teeth however the manner in which the tooth whitening is administered certainly can. The hydrogen peroxide gel can burn the gum area around the tooth if it is left in contact with this area, this is why the whitening trays are custom made for you exclusively to fit tightly against your teeth to prevent the gel from touching your gum.

Unfortunately teeth whitening is sometimes offered by people that are not trained in the dental profession such as beauty therapists. Teeth whitening should only be undertaken if your gums are in good condition, they can easily become inflamed with teeth whitening if your oral hygiene is not as good as it should be.

Also, if you have tartar in between your teeth and it is not removed then all that will happen is that the tartar becomes white, because this is much more porous than natural teeth the tartar will stain again very quickly.

This is why teeth whitening should only be carried out by a trained dental professional, they will ensure your teeth are cleaned prior to the teeth whitening meaning you get a much longer lasting result. They will also ensure that the whitening is carried out in the safest manner with the best cross infection control standards to ensure you remain safe, fit and healthy throughout your treatment.

If I cut out tea and coffee from my diet completely, will this stop my teeth from darkening?

It will certainly make your teeth less likely to become stained more quickly, but over time, we all naturally start to lose the dazzling whiteness of our teeth. This is down to the white enamel wearing down over time. The dentin, the layer under the enamel, is yellow in hue so as the enamel wears down, we see more of the dentin underneath. There are also other staining agents in your diet that could contribute to staining over time. 

The great thing about teeth whitening is that it can be topped up. If your teeth start to lose their brilliance, you can arrange to have home whitening sorted by your dentist. These home kits are perfect for topping up your whitening, keeping your bright smile no matter whether or not you’re drinking tea or coffee. 

Looking to brighten your smile? 

If tooth discolouration is affecting your self-confidence and you find yourself hiding your teeth when you smile, maybe whitening is the best solution for you. Like to find out more? You can give us a call on 020 8731 9020. You can also arrange a consultation with our cosmetic dentists today using our online booking system.



Saroshen has a calm and reassuring manner which helps relax nervous patients. He has a special interest in cosmetic treatments, including teeth whitening, crowns and restorative build ups.


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