As a tea lover you must have asked yourself this question at least once, “Does tea stain your teeth?”. Yes, it stains your teeth especially black tea has the most potential for staining. Naturally, your teeth tend to stain if you are not following routine dental hygiene, and eating acidic foods or drinking acidic beverages. Tea makes the scenario worse because it has tannins in it sticking on a molecular level on your teeth.
Here, we talked about the effects of tea on your teeth, small particles in tea, different types of teas, and clues about ways how to reduce teeth staining from tea.
We believe that experience is the best teacher. We recommend you get yourself a cup of tea and enjoy reading this writing while drinking it. In the end, you will learn the best way to get rid of tea stains on teeth.
Shall we begin with the first sip?
Does tea stain your teeth?
Yes, it stains your teeth by leaving a compound behind, tannins. We all know that most of the things we eat or drink have the potential to change our pearly white teeth’ color into a yellowish or darker shade. The main reason behind this color change is normally dying agents, which are called chromogens. But in the tea case, they are tannins.
The driving force behind the tea stain
Tea is also known to change the color of your teeth, but why does tea stain your teeth? Tea has small particles in it called “tannin” making your teeth yellow in time. Tannins can take place on your smooth-looking teeth. Guess what? They are not that smooth at microscopic levels and tannins find themselves in some rough places to stuck in. When they are stuck for a while, hello yellow teeth.
What are tannins?
Tannins are natural products of plants. They are also referred to as tannic acid which is the most common form of it. Tannins are found in legume seeds, cereal grains, fruits, and vegetables. Some beverages have also a high volume of tannin; wine, tea, and cider. Most of these beverages get their colors from the tannins in them. The dominant color of tannin is also used in dying animal leathers.
They have different functions such as helping the growth of plants and protecting against animals with their taste. That explains the bitter taste and dry mouth after drinking wine or tea. What’s more, tannins are also known to protect trees from fires.
Tannins are not harmful to your body. Even some sources claim that they might reduce the risk of cancer and prevent some of the bacteria and virus formation in your body.
Fun fact: The bitter taste caused by the tannins are actually for wild animals. It’s a defense mechanism! We like that bitter taste of tea, though, most animals do not like it all.
To stain or not to stain: the level of tea stains
For each type of tea, there’s a greater or lesser likelihood of staining your teeth when drinking them. Other than tannin content and chromogens, the acidity level of your tea is also important. The more acidic your tea, the better chance you’ll have discolored teeth.
I prefer black tea for yellow teeth
Some of us wonder does black tea stains teeth. Yes, sorry to announce this truth like that but the high level of tannins and acidity level of black tea makes your tea experience, the most staining one. Most of us are in love with black tea but if you need to choose between your love of tea and white teeth you should find a balance to avoid yellow stains on your teeth.
The tannin level in black tea is so high that, you can even feel it by yourself since it dries your mouth and tastes bitter. The pH level of black tea is also low making it worse for your teeth. With the first sip from the black tea, your frontal teeth’ pH levels decrease to 5 for 25 seconds according to a study. It erodes the tooth enamel in the long term consumption, and then the stains are placed over those eroded places.
Some of the black tea types are:
- English Breakfast
- Earl gray
- Ceylon black
- Assam black
You can minimize its discoloring effects by using some techniques and tips. Take another sip and keep reading to find more.
Teas to tease your teeth: acidity
The acid level of tea has an important effect on your teeth. Apart from tannins, the lower acidic level of tea is also capable of changing your teeth’ color for different reasons. Herbal teas are generally made out of acidic flowers and fruits. When you drink herbal teas such as oolong tea and blackberry tea, they might erode the outer surface of your teeth (enamel) and expose the inner part (dentin).
Your enamel is the main reason for your white teeth’ color and when it is stained or eroded discoloration happens. Your dentin, on the other hand, is not white as enamel and when it is exposed you get the yellow image.
The exposure of the dentin is also called the demineralization process. When your teeth are demineralized the surface becomes more vulnerable to dying agents, chromogens. They attach to your teeth more with the help of a newly eroded bumpy surface. It is best to avoid consuming acidic teas for whiter smiles.
The recommended acidity level for your tea is around 5.5 7 pH. The lower the pH level the more acidic your tea becomes. Some of the average pH levels of teas are:
- Blackberry tea pH 2.5
- Earl gray pH 4.5
- Black tea pH 5
- Oolong tea pH 5.5 – 7
- Green tea pH 7 – 10
Green teas for dull teeth
Green teas are wonderful teas indeed, they smell so good and their tastes might put you in magical moods. They come with lots of health benefits too like; improving brain function, increasing fat, and reducing bad breath. But it doesn’t mean that they are so innocent when it comes to staining your teeth. They stain your teeth over time if you consume them a lot.
Unlike black teas, green teas leave a dull color behind. It is not easily noticeable at first glance. It is again for the tannin content of the green tea causing your teeth to discolor in time. Some of the green teas are:
- Konacha or Agari
Does matcha stain teeth?
Yes, it stains your teeth, but not like other green teas. Some sources claim that matcha does not affect your tooth enamel directly but leaves a gray stain over your plaques. It is not a fast procedure though, there should be plaque formation first and then they became permanent over your plaques.
If you brush your teeth after drinking matcha it does not affect your teeth at all, unlike other teas. So, you can enjoy your matcha tea while not worrying about teeth stains. Just keep in mind that whether you are drinking black tea, herbal tea, or matcha you have to brush your teeth after all.
Not all teas leave stains
Yes, some of the teas cause less staining but it is hard to talk about stain-free teas. These teas are known to cause less staining than the others. And interestingly, there is one type of tea giving you whiter teeth called peppermint tea. Let’s take a look at them while having another sip:
White tea: It is time to say, white tea for white teeth. White tea is produced in the same way as green and black tea, but the difference is it is not processed. It is also healthy for your body and you can enjoy it without concerning stains.
Peppermint tea: Interestingly peppermint tea is not just stain-free but also has a whitening effect some says. You can enjoy its fresh taste while not thinking about stains.
Rooibos tea: Rooibos tea is thought to not affect your teeth’ color. It is not like black or green tea with its herbal ingredients. Aspalathus linearis is the plant rooibos made of. This plant does not contain tannins. It’s a safe choice if you are concerned about stains.
Does tea stain your teeth more than coffee?
You will be surprised to hear this but, yes, tea stains your teeth more than coffee. Generally speaking, unlike coffee, tea has more tannins in it. We know that if there are lots of tannins the beverage or the food you consume produces causes more stains. And sorry for tea lovers, but coffee lovers might have whiter teeth according to this information.
For comparison, they made a study with different types of coffee and teas to see which is more likely to give you stained teeth. The results showed an obvious winner in staining your teeth, tea. They believe the main reasons for this situation are tannins and the oxidation process.
How to defend your teeth against stains
Enjoying a cup of tea and protecting yourself from turning yellow is not a dream. You can add some ingredients, try some methods and also change the type of tea you drink to prevent your teeth from getting stained and protect your oral health. If you want to know how to prevent teeth staining from tea, here’s the list you need!
- Drink it with milk: Tannin is known to have a loss chance to attach to your teeth with the milk added to your tea. Especially try to choose milk with a high level of fat to increase the chance of attachment.
- Try drinking in a shorter time: When drinking takes longer time with lots of sips, your teeth are exposed to tea for a longer time. Try reducing your drinking time. But do it on a moderate level
- Drink with a straw: Drinking tea with a straw lowers the chances of dying agents touching your teeth. We recommend you drink your iced or warm tea with a straw, beware of drinking super hot tea through a straw, or else it might hurt your throat.
- Rinse your mouth with water: Make sure to rinse your mouth with a glass of water after drinking tea it will reduce the staining. It can be followed by brushing 30 minutes later, but don’t rush into it.
- Follow a strict brushing routine: Your teeth call for help 2 times a day. Even if you are not following a daily routine, never skip it whenever you remember to brush them.
- Change your tea choices: If you drink teas that are less dense in tannin content and caffeine, you will protect your pearly whites.
- Brew or steep it less: Reducing the brewing or steeping will get you less dying agent content in your tea. The longer the leaves stay in the water, the more you will get your teeth stained.
- Do not add lemon or sugar: They are both known to decrease the pH level making it more acidic which is not good for your teeth. Sugar on the other hand also increases bacteria accumulation. Honey is not an expectation in this situation.
- Reduce its acidity: If you are drinking an acidic tea (like hibiscus chamomile), adding some more water to it will reduce its acidity. Less steeping duration will also lower the acidity. We know you like it more when it is denser, but the best for your teeth is less acidic.
- Reduce your tea consumption: We know it sounds sad, but reducing or limiting your daily tea consumption is the best option to prevent staining.
Now that you came so far, you know what to do after the last sip
We assume you finished reading and your tea at the same time or just before that. You must have learned how to prevent your teeth from staining from tea so far, but let’s just go over it again one more time.
First, you should rinse your mouth. This will give you a fresher mouth taste, too. Make sure you rinse your mouth with warm water, not cold, or hot. After that, you will wait at least 30 minutes and now you can brush your teeth to say goodbye to our tannin fellows.
If you think you still have problems with your teeth after doing all of these, you can always consider some teeth whitening options.
Hopefully, next time when you prepare yourself a cup of tea, you remember us and follow the advice we gave you. Seeing you with a shining smile always motivates us.
As Dentfix, we are happy to help you get the smile you want and deserve!
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-Chung KT, Wong TY, Wei CI, Huang YW, Lin Y., Tannins and Human Health: A Review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1998;38(6):421-464. doi:10.1080/10408699891274273 Link
-Simpson A, Shaw L, Smith AJ., Tooth Surface pH During Drinking of Black Tea. Br Dent J. 2001;190(7):374-376. doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.4800977 Link