2009-05-14 / General Stories

Oral Health News from Baylor College of Dentistry

Chew On This: Coffeeand tea-stained teeth

The gourmet coffee craze in the United States has never been stronger, and some dental patients' teeth have never been darker.

Every cup of coffee contains a substance called tannic acid. This acid, also found in tea, can stain teeth when these beverages are consumed frequently. Tannic acid is found in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and tea.

Over time, the tannic acid gets into the grooves or around fillings in teeth and, if it is not removed constantly, people may end up with what dentists call "cappuccino teeth." Though surface stains from the acid can be removed with regular brushing, toothpaste can't reach the internal portions of the tooth where discoloration can also occur.

Dentists at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry recommend that coffee and tea drinkers who don't like the color of their teeth consider tooth bleaching with products from their dentist.

"To get the maximum benefit from bleaching, a professional cleaning should be done first in order to remove all the external stain from the tooth surface," said Dr. Charles W. Wakefield, director and professor in the advanced education in general dentistry residency program at HSC-Baylor College of Dentistry. "This makes the deeper stains easier to reach and remove. The bleach dispensed from a dental office is a much higher concentration than that purchased over the counter."

For severely stained teeth, Wakefield recommends porcelain veneers, which are as thin as eggshells and cover the enamel of the tooth but are a costly alternative.

Coffee and tea aren't the only substances that contain tannic acid. Red wine also contains this agent, so people who drink coffee, tea or red wine should brush carefully and get professional cleanings regularly.

Founded in 1905, Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas is a college of the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

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