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Without Forgoing Your Morning Brew

While tannins offer a number of health benefits due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, if they’re allowed to build up on tooth enamel they can also cause stains on teeth. Tannins are natural organic substances found in tea, and occur in greater concentration in the darker black and green teas. Drinking lighter tea, brushing teeth regularly, and drinking water after a cup of tea can all help to prevent discoloration from occurring. And just as hydrogen peroxide can be used to remove tea stains on clothes, so too is it a common ingredient in teeth-whitening products – which can be effective on tooth enamel that is already discolored. 

Dealing With Discoloration

Discoloration caused by tea and other drinks is known as an extrinsic stain: A superficial staining that affects the hard outermost enamel layer of teeth. Tooth enamel can be easily affected, but because the stain remains on the surface it may be possible to remove discoloration of an extrinsic stain with a teeth-whitening procedure. A common active ingredient in whitening products is hydrogen peroxide. It contains oxygen molecules that weaken the bonds of molecules on stained teeth, gradually removing the stain. If the discoloration is mild or you want to prevent staining from occurring, brushing your teeth or simply rinsing your mouth with water to remove tannins after drinking tea may be sufficient.

Woman holding a mug of tea up to her mouth, hiding her potentially stained teeth.

Swapping To A Lighter Tea

Tannins occur naturally in tea, but are in higher concentrations in black and green tea. These darker teas also contain other compounds such as theaflavins, which can contribute to staining. Choosing to drink a lighter, unfermented tea such as white tea can help to avoid discoloration of the teeth. White tea not only contains fewer tannins, but is also a source of fluoride and catechins, which can help protect enamel from the damage caused by sugars and plaque. As well as drinking pure white tea, a study from the International Journal of Dental Hygiene revealed that adding milk to any tea can reduce the risk of discoloration of the teeth, as the milk protein casein binds to tannin, disabling its staining effects.

While tea has many health benefits, the tannins it contains can cause staining to teeth. Regular brushing, rinsing with water, and swapping to a lighter tea can help prevent stains, while teeth-whitening products are effective at reversing discoloration that has already occurred.

Photo “Woman drinking with cup” is under an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to the photographer Drew Coffman and is being posted unaltered (source)