Does Coffee Stain Teeth?

Many of us enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning to get us going for the day but overtime drinking coffee can cause stains and discolouring to your teeth. Coffee contains a high level of polyphenols including phenolic acids, flavonoids, and tannins. Whilst these organic compounds contribute towards flavour and do provide certain health benefits, a build-up on the teeth (resulting from an inadequate cleaning routine) can stain the enamel. Dental treatments to counter the appearance coffee stained teeth are available. 

How does coffee stain your teeth? 

The cross section of a tooth reveals three major sections (or layers): the innermost pulp chamber, the intermediate dentin layer, and the outer enamel layer (also known as the crown). However, there is also a much thinner skin-like protein layer that exists on the surface of the tooth enamel – an antibacterial protective coating called the pellicle. The pellicle is chiefly made up of components found within the saliva and begins to form within seconds of the teeth being cleaned, reaching full thickness after around two hours. The pellicle is the tooth’s anti-abrasive lubricating barrier within which polyphenols (such as tannin found in coffee) and iron compounds become embedded, leading to staining if not properly cleaned. 

How to remove coffee stains from the teeth 

Patients wishing to remove coffee stains from the teeth (or lessen the appearance of coffee stains on the teeth) may choose from a number of over-the-counter and professional dental treatment options. These options come down to three broad choices: remove the stain, cover the stain, or whiten the stain – each of these options is outlined below. 

  • Dental treatment to remove coffee stained enamel – The hygienist or dentist will remove coffee stains on the teeth using an ultrasonic scaler and other hand tools – this will dislodge any debris on the surface of the teeth. Next, the hygienist or dentist will polish the tooth using conventional methods or an air-flow system that combines water, air, and powder. The process can be completed within a one-hour appointment.
  • Composite/veneer bonding treatments to conceal coffee stained enamel  – Composite bonding and veneer bonding are techniques that may be used to cover up coffee stained teeth. A composite bond is a resin applied to the tooth that is then set, shaped, and polished, whereas veneer bonding involves fabricating and attaching a stronger but more expensive porcelain veneer to the surface of the tooth.
  • Teeth whitening treatments to lighten the coffee stained enamel – To remove coffee stains from the teeth with whitening, patients may choose between over-the-counter teeth whitening treatments and a variety of professional teeth whitening treatments from the dentist. 

Over-the-counter teeth whitening vs. dentist teeth whitening – What’s the difference?

Success rates are typically considerably lower for store-bought teeth whitening treatments. This is because the coffee stain on the surface of the teeth prevents the bleaching agent from reaching the enamel.  Professional coffee stain removal and teeth whitening treatments from the dentist will involve first polishing the teeth to remove the coffee stain, before beginning the teeth whitening treatment. The dentist is also able to provide a stronger whitening agent than is available over-the-counter and can also provide patients with custom trays to avoid

Tips to whiten coffee stained teeth

There are two types of stains on the teeth: intrinsic stains inside the tooth (requiring more complex treatments) and extrinsic stains on the surface of the tooth (many straightforward treatments are widely available, as outlined above). Coffee stains are extrinsic, meaning there are many treatments available to remove coffee stains from the teeth.

However, there are several ‘quick-fix’ ways to avoid coffee stains on the teeth, as well as more long-term advice for adapting lifestyle and behaviour to protect teeth from coffee stains. 

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes – Electric toothbrushes with timers can help to track the time. Try not to brush the teeth for up to 30 minutes after drinking coffee, as this will provide time for the saliva to remove any staining compounds from inside the mouth (i.e. on the surface of the tongue or cheeks) to which the freshly brushed enamel would otherwise be exposed. 
  • Drink anything that isn’t water through a straw – Drinking coffee through a straw reduces contact time between the enamel and the coffee. Remember that even soft drinks may lead to teeth staining as acidic fruit-based liquids can ‘strip’ the teeth of a natural coating called the pellicle, exposing the enamel and increasing the risk of staining from contact with polyphenols (staining compounds). 
  • If you can’t use a straw, drink water at the same time as coffee  – Where you do not have access to a straw, pour a glass of water to drink alongside sips of coffee. This will assist your saliva in washing away any deposits that could result in coffee stains on the teeth. The water will also help to provide a boost in removing staining compounds left behind by other food and drink. 


Published On: May 16th, 2014 / Categories: Teeth Whitening /

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