Coffee has basically become integral to our diets. It's easily the first thing we think about when we wake up. How else would we get through the day? But, as is usually true, there can be too much of a good thing. Coffee is the perfect example, as it is infamous for causing the yellowing of teeth. Why does coffee stain your teeth? Don't worry, I have an answer.

The Science

mocha, cappuccino, espresso, coffee
Jocelyn Hsu

As most people know, teeth are made of enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. The fact that enamel can stain with such a tough structure may seem counterintuitive, but there's an explanation.

Enamel is not flat and smooth. It contains tiny pits that trap the dark pigments in coffee. After you drink coffee, your teeth are inundated with these pesky pigments that like to hang out in those pits. You can't see these pits, but they're just small enough to grab onto your coffee with each sip. 

The acid in coffee may be a secondary contributor to teeth stains. Overexposure to the acid in coffee can degrade enamel, making it more susceptible to staining from the pigments. Drinking coffee in moderation is not likely to cause a problem, but those of you who need coffee throughout the day may experience negative effects from the acid. I'm looking at you, coffee addicts. 

ice, beer, alcohol, liquor, tea, wine
Amy Cho

Now, you might be thinking, "I don't drink my coffee black, so how are my teeth still getting stained?" Unfortunately, even if you add milk or cream to your coffee (making it much less dark), your teeth can still get stained. Milk or cream will not get rid of the coffee pigments but simply trick you into thinking your teeth are now unstainable due to the lighter color.

Is There Any Hope?


Rupert Taylor-Price on Flickr

The simple solution to this problem: stop drinking coffee. Calm down, it was just a joke. I mean, not drinking coffee at all is obviously the best way to avoid yellow stains, but that's just not feasible. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to decrease the intensity of the stains, other than dropping hundreds of dollars on a teeth-whitening treatment.

Tips and Tricks

Sipping coffee throughout the day is one of the worst things you can do for your teeth if you're trying to avoid yellowing. Constant exposure to the dark pigments will only proliferate their effects. Drinking coffee in one sitting is key. Another useful tip is to rinse with water right after you finish drinking your brew. Brushing your teeth is even more ideal but also impractical since most of us take coffee to work and school. 

There you have it: why does coffee stain your teeth, answered. Hopefully, you've gained some insight as to why your teeth aren't as pristine as they once were before coffee became a necessity. You can keep buying those artsy lattes, just be conscious of how often and how long you're sipping throughout the day if you're trying to avoid yellowing.