Tea is the cause of more teeth staining than any other beverage, including coffee. And black tea, the most widely consumed type in the world, is the worst offender of all!
It’s no sin to need that cuppa first thing in the morning, but the downside is the residual dark staining that it can leave behind. Tea (and coffee) contains chromagens. Chromagens are intensely pigmented molecules and are the reason that these seemingly indispensable beverages have their beautiful dark color. Because chromagens have a particular affinity for tooth enamel it makes them prime smile-tainters and teeth-stainers.
Why Adding Milk To Tea Prevents Teeth Staining – The Facts:
A recent study reported in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene found that that by adding milk to tea you can reduce its staining impact. That’s great news for tea lovers. But why is tea such a culprit?
If you thought chromagens were bad, meet tannins!
Tea, unlike coffee, also contains tannins. Tannins are a kind of chromagen and are largely responsible for tea’s distinct flavor and lovely color. However, tannins make teeth enamel much more susceptible to staining. In effect, tea presents a double-whammy to your pearly whites!
But don’t freak out. You can still enjoy your cups of soothing tea without ruining your smile. Here are my recommendations:
The Tea Drinker’s Guide To Teeth-Friendly Tea Consumption:
- Add Some Milk to your Tea. Milk contains a protein called casein, which binds with tannins and decreases dental discoloration. (I guess the Brits knew what they were doing all along!)
- Be mindful of the Tannin Levels. Most teas contain some tannin including green tea, white tea and herbal tea (decaffeinated, too!). But it is black tea that has the highest levels.
- Swish With Plain Water: When you finish sipping your tea it’s a good idea to swish your mouth with plain water. This washes away much of the residual tannins lingering on your tooth enamel.
- Be Scientific: When steeping your tea, keep this piece of scientific trivia in mind:During the first two minutes of immersion in boiling water tea leaves release the majority of their caffeine. Between 2 and 5 minutes the tannins are drawn out of the leaves.So, if you are looking for a pick-me-up, drink your tea after two minutes for maximum stimulation and minimum tannins. If you are looking to relax, empty your cup after two minutes, and then re-steep your tea bag. But beware of the tannins (see helpful hints 2. and 3.)
- Beware of Herbal Teas: Many herbal teas are derived from fruit. Most popular are lemons, raspberries, and black currants, which are delicious but tend to be very acidic. These teas can actually dissolve tooth enamel and weaken your teeth them, too. Rinsing with water after consuming can help neutralize this “acid attack”.Note: Don’t brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after drinking an acidic beverage, lest you abrade away the softened tooth structure. (Also, when you add a slice of lemon to any tea you are also increasing its acidity.)
- Don’t Swish Your Tea! Avoid swishing tea in your mouth. Try to minimize the tannin-to-tooth contact as much as possible. When drinking iced tea, use a straw.
- Switch: If you are an avid tea drinker here’s one last caveat to keep in mind: the trifecta of rich color, high tannin content, and high acidity maximizes tea’s staining potential. Alternatives, such as chamomile, are a tooth-friendly choice.
As you can see, while tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, it’s not the most conducive to a white, bright smile. If you drink tea all day, try to cut down or replace a few cups with an alternative.
And as the study indicates, when you do sit down to enjoy that cozy cup of tea, splash in a little milk to protect your smile. And if your teeth are already stained, think about an in-office teeth whitening treatment. We do tons of these every week and our patients are in love with the results: The Best Teeth Whitening In New York City.
Here are some other articles about this new information about tea with milk and your teeth: http://greatideas.people.com/2015/08/20/milk-tea-teeth-whitener-study/
Michael Sinkin practices cosmetic, implant, and restorative dentistry in New York City. He is known for the wonderful care he provides to his patients, and for his wicked sense of humor! To contact Dr. Sinkin, link here.