Coffee, Tea, & Your Teeth

Can't give up that double decaf cap after lunch? Here are some tips for minimizing the effects on your teeth.

Coffee and tea are especially tough on teeth, because tannic acid (the stuff that makes the dark color) etches into the pits and grooves of tooth enamel and can stain teeth brown. So, short of giving up your java or cuppa, what can you do?

Rinse with a glass of water after every cup, suggests E. "Mac" Edington, D.D.S., president of the Academy of General Dentistry. If you prefer iced coffee or tea, he suggests sipping these beverages through a straw. That way, the tannins won't even touch your front upper and lower teeth. "You may stain the back of the teeth, but not the front," Edington says.

The really white-obsessed can wipe off their front teeth with a tissue. Or ask your dentist about bleaching.

Bleaching is successful in about 90 percent of patients, but not everyone is a good candidate. Teeth that have hints of yellow, brown, or orange respond best. Teeth that are gray from years of smoking will see results, but they won't be as dramatic.

Even if you don't drink coffee, try to swish and swallow some plain water at the end of each meal. Water neutralizes acids left in your mouth after eating and reduces cavity-causing bacteria by about 30 percent.

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