Fact Checked

Tea and Coffee Teeth Stains: How to Remove Them

Written by Fernanda Elizalde

October 31, 2022

Medically Reviewed

By Dr. Brian Harris, DDS

Many people enjoy drinking coffee or tea in the morning to jump-start their day. But over time, this routine can cause noticeable stains on your teeth.

If you have coffee or tea-stained teeth, you may be struggling to find ways to keep them clean. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to avoid stained teeth without giving up your favorite drink.

In this blog, we’ll discuss why coffee and tea stain your teeth, how to prevent staining, and the steps you can take to restore your pearly whites.

Why does coffee stain your teeth?

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The reason behind coffee’s tendency to cause teeth staining is its high concentration of compounds known as tannins. Tannins are a form of polyphenols that are responsible for the bitter taste and dry mouthfeel in drinks like wine, coffee, and tea. They’re also classified as antioxidants and have various health benefits. However, tannins are notorious for causing stained teeth.

Essentially, tannins cause color compounds to linger on teeth, and because teeth enamel is incredibly porous, these compounds often leave behind a yellow stain. Coffee is rich in tannins, so even one cup per day can cause tooth discoloration. Furthermore, coffee is very acidic. So, drinking coffee regularly can quickly weaken tooth enamel.

How does tea stain teeth enamel?

Drinking tea can offer many health benefits, including boosting the immune system and even preventing cancer and heart disease. However, it may also cause significant tooth discoloration.

Like coffee, many tea varieties are rich in tannins. In fact, some teas have nearly double the number of tannins as coffee. So, they may be even more likely to stain your teeth.

Which teas stain teeth the most?

As a general rule of thumb, the deeper the color of a tea, the more likely it is to stain your teeth. Likewise, the stronger your tea, the greater the power of its teeth-staining components. The following are the teas most likely to stain your teeth.

Black Tea

The oxidation stage used to create black tea gives it its characteristic color and flavor and distinguishes it from lighter teas in terms of taste and appearance. Unfortunately, it is also rich in stain-promoting tannins. With its high tannin content, black tea is well-known for staining teeth – even worse than coffee.

Green Tea

Although green tea does not stain teeth as intensely as black tea, it can still lead to tooth discoloration when consumed often. Like other teas, tannins are responsible for the surface stains you’ll see after consistently drinking green tea. However, these stains often appear dull gray in color as opposed to the typical yellow. Additionally, regular green tea drinkers often find that after they develop these gray stains, it can be quite challenging to remove them.

Which teas are least likely to stain teeth?

Luckily, some types of teas aren’t likely to stain your teeth or only leave slight discoloration if heavily consumed. So if you enjoy drinking tea, try swapping out the black or green varieties to prevent tea stains.

White Tea

White tea is an excellent alternative for tea lovers who want to prevent stains without compromising that classic tea taste. This is due to minimal processing, which gives white tea a lighter color and a lower concentration of tannins. These characteristics make white tea less likely to cause staining and far healthier for the teeth.

Peppermint Tea

The warm, tingly sensation peppermint tea offers make it a trendy alternative to darker teas, especially during winter and holidays. However, you may be surprised to learn that it’s also a great option to avoid staining your teeth.

Peppermint tea is caffeine-free with very low levels of tannins and a neutral pH. So, it typically doesn’t cause teeth staining. Even with heavy or continuous use, it is far less likely to leave noticeable stains than other beverages, like black tea, coffee, or red wine.

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How to remove coffee and tea stains from teeth

Tea and coffee stains might make you feel less confident about your smile. But, the good news is that there are many options to remove tooth staining, depending on its severity.

Homemade Remedies

There are many homemade remedies you can try to remove a coffee or tea stain. One option is to rinse your mouth with a hydrogen peroxide solution. To make this oral rinse, mix 8 oz of water with the same amount of hydrogen peroxide, swish for one minute, then rinse.

Baking soda can also be used to create a natural teeth whitening toothpaste and safely remove tooth stains at home. Mix a small amount of baking soda with water to make this paste, then brush your teeth for 15 seconds.

At-Home Teeth Whitening

Using an over-the-counter whitening product can often deliver significant improvements in your smile for mild tooth discoloration and staining. Still, at-home whitening products aren’t as strong as those offered at your dentist. That said, if your teeth are healthy and your staining isn’t too deep, whitening products from the drugstore are a great option.

Whitening toothpastes are some of the most effective and widely used at-home whitening products. Their active ingredients are typically abrasives, polishers, and gentle chemical bleaching agents, which help brighten your teeth physically and chemically. Teeth whitening strips are also popular and usually contain peroxide or bleach to remove stains.

Lastly, whitening mouthwashes that contain bleaching ingredients may help remove surface stains from your teeth when used regularly. Regardless of the product you choose, be sure it has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, ensuring it’s proven effective and safe to use.

Professional Teeth Whitening

A professional whitening treatment is the best option to reverse deeper staining and achieve more noticeable results. Professional whitening products are more potent than at-home alternatives. So, your results will be instant and long-lasting. Having your teeth whitened at the dentist is also safer and more effective if you suffer from tooth or gum sensitivity.

Depending on your oral health and desired results, there are a few different solutions to choose from for in-office teeth whitening. One procedure involves filling a custom tray with a bleaching solution. Then, the dentist will place the tray over your teeth and use a light or heat source to speed up the whitening process.

Another option is to purchase a take-home whitening kit with custom trays, a bleaching solution, and detailed instructions to perform the treatment at home. These kits contain whitening gels with a higher concentration of bleaching ingredients, making them more effective and fast-acting than drugstore alternatives.

Preventing coffee and tea-stained teeth

Drinking tea and coffee doesn’t have to mean dealing with unsightly teeth stains. There are several ways to prevent stained teeth and maintain a healthy, white smile:

  • Brush and floss your teeth daily to remove plaque, a significant contributor to tooth decay and discoloration
  • Drink hot or iced tea and coffee through a straw to minimize staining
  • Rinse your mouth with water after drinking coffee or tea
  • Add some milk or cream to your beverage to lighten the drink and reduce staining
  • Brush your teeth with baking soda twice per week to improve whiteness in the long run
  • Try an electric toothbrush for more effective cleaning
  • Make a lighter-than-usual brew of your favorite tea

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get tea stains off your teeth?

There are several ways to remove tea stains, depending on their severity. At-home options such as over-the-counter toothpaste or whitening strips are great for mild to moderate staining. In contrast, professional whitening treatments are most effective for deep, heavy staining and provide long-lasting results.

Are tea stains on teeth permanent?

In most cases, tea stains are not permanent. Try brushing your teeth with a hydrogen peroxide paste to remove tea stains. If the discoloration remains, visit your dentist for more potent options, such as a professional whitening treatment or an at-home whitening kit.

Do tea stains damage teeth?

Typically, stained teeth are primarily a cosmetic issue. However, any drink that isn’t water can cause bacteria to grow inside the mouth, which may lead to enamel erosion or tooth decay without proper oral hygiene. To avoid these oral health issues, brush and floss regularly and visit your dentist for regular checkups.

Why is tea staining my teeth?

Many teas, especially black teas, contain a high concentration of tannins. Tannins are the compounds that give coffee and tea their distinct bitter taste and are also responsible for teeth staining and discoloration.

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Because of their high tannin content, coffee and tea often stain teeth. However, there are several ways to help remove and prevent tea stains.

Over-the-counter options, such as tooth whitening gel, toothpaste, mouthwash, and strips, can often reduce surface staining and mild cases of tooth discoloration. However, it’s best to visit the dentist to whiten your teeth for instances of severely stained teeth. Professional whitening treatments contain a higher concentration of bleaching ingredients and are much longer lasting than drugstore alternatives.

Finally, for tea and coffee lovers hoping to prevent teeth staining, try drinking your favorite beverage through a straw or rinsing with water afterward to maintain a bright, white smile.