I get this question quite frequently in my dental chair. With my patients looking for ways to have a whiter and brighter smile, coffee is a big talking point.
The answer to “will putting cream in my coffee still stain my teeth” is;
YES! Yes, it will! The cream will not take away the pigment in the coffee, only dilute it. As well, the coffee will still be in the acidic range to soften your enamel, allowing your teeth to soak of some of the coffee colour.
Keep reading to learn more about the reasons why.
Why? Acidity and pH Levels
We are going to get sciency here. For your enamel to start to soften and demineralize the pH level has to be under 5.5 pH.
When your mouth is in this state of acidity, your enamel will start to act like a sponge, soaking up the pigment from the food and drink you’re consuming.
Below you can see the pH levels of common drinks that can soften your enamel, potentially leading to staining your teeth.
For reference; Pure water – Neutral – 7 pH
Black coffee- 5 pH
Red Wine – 3.3 to 3.6 pH
Orange Juice – 3.8 pH
White Wine – 3 – 3.4 pH
Coca-Cola (zero) – 2.96 pH
Coca-Cola (classic) – 2.37 pH
Lemon Juice – 2.25 pH
Coffee with Cream
To continue on the pH levels, the cream has a pH level of about 6.7 to 6.8 pH. This means it is still under the neutral 7 pH level. Whereas black coffee sits around 5 pH.
When you add cream to the coffee, you are reducing the acidity so it may take longer for the coffee with cream to start softening your enamel vs black coffee. But this really depends on HOW MUCH cream you are putting in your coffee. Usually, it’s just a dash, not ½ cream to ½ coffee. Just a dash isn’t going to make a drastic difference in the pH level, and your coffee will still be quite acidic.
The cream that you are putting in your coffee still contains a small amount of sugar. If you’re sipping on your coffee for a long period of time that sugar is getting reintroduced to your mouth over and over again, causing more stain.
In addition to this, are you adding sugar to your coffee?
The sugar will lower the pH level and make your cup of coffee more acidic.
The bacteria in your mouth will feed on these sugars, duplicate and continue to produce acid, making your mouth increasingly more acidic.
Remember; the cream in your coffee will not take away the pigment in the coffee. It is still there, just diluted.
The longer the amount of time you are exposing your mouth to acid and sugar, the higher the chance you will develop stained teeth.
Saliva … it’s like MAGIC
The saliva in your mouth plays a HUGE role in preventing stain. It takes about 30 minutes for the saliva in your mouth to neutralize the acid and bring the pH level of your mouth back up above the scary 5.5 pH.
With this in mind, you will want to drink your coffee as fast as you can. Avoid sipping your coffee throughout the day.
Every time you take a sip, you are resetting that 30-minute acid mouth clock.
Saliva contains many minerals to help remineralize your tooth, making your teeth strong and protected against erosion and stain.
If you have reduced saliva due to cancer treatments, surgery or an autoimmune disorder you will want to be extremely cautious of the amount of sugary and acidic foods you are consuming.
It will take much longer for your saliva to fight back and neutralize the acid, equalling more stain.
It sounds like a scary comic book rendition!
Prevent Teeth Stains
If you are really concerned about the staining of your teeth from your daily coffee, preventing stains should be your number one priority.
You can’t remove the stain if it isn’t there in the first place!
Hidden foods and drink that can cause teeth to stain
My favourite example of how acidity has more of an impact than colour alone is white vs. red wine.
Both white and red wine will stain your teeth. Red may seem like it will stain your teeth more, but white is not a safe choice either.
As shown at the beginning of this post, on the pH scale, white wine is more acidic than red wine.
The acid in the white wine starts to soften your enamel and makes it more likely to pick up and absorb other pigments from other food and drink.
Let’s say you are heading to your favourite Italian restaurant for a good spaghetti and meatball dish. You want to start off with a nice glass of wine… you choose a white wine because you think it will stain your teeth less.
This is not the case.
Because the white wine is more acidic, it will soften your teeth more, and your teeth will soak up that beautifully delicious red spaghetti sauce.
The red spaghetti sauce will be acidic on its own as well, with having a base of tomatoes. So this combo of white wine and spaghetti sauce is your teeth’s worst stain nightmare!
Make sure you have a glass of water close to you to sip on, this will rinse away the pigment and the acid before it has a chance to absorb into your teeth.
Stay away from a whitening toothpaste
Whitening toothpaste can be very abrasive and actually start to wear away your tooth surface. I do warn against them and suggest to my patients they switch to a non-whitening toothpaste.
If you have a lot of surface stain, then using one once in while may be warranted.
But, sometimes the stain isn’t actually on our teeth, it’s embedded in the build-up (tartar/calculus).
You cannot brush away the tartar (also known as calculus). It is bound to the teeth and calcified. It can only be removed properly by a dental hygienist or dentist.
Good oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings will contribute to a happy, healthy, white smile!
Read Now: My favourite teeth whitening products
Stay away from homemade whitening remedies
Most of the online suggestions for homemade remedies to whiten your teeth will cause more damage to your teeth than good.
A lot of them consist of acids and abrasives. I remember the whole lemon and backing soda saga.
The number of patients I saw who thought this was working left me in shock. I had patients coming in, and their enamel was very thin and almost seethrough. This allowed the yellowish dentin that is below the white enamel to shine through. This made their teeth appear more yellow, the opposite of what they were trying to achieve!
Others just do not work. I have tested a few myself including; the banana peel and hairdryer.
Trust me, they don’t work.
How to actually whiten your teeth
For this, you need to chemically whiten your teeth.
The best time to whiten your teeth is right after a dental cleaning. They just removed all the hard build-up on your teeth, giving you a clean slate to whiten. Whitening solutions will not penetrate the tartar (calculus) on your teeth and you will not get the best results.
Chemically whitening your teeth works by penetrating the surface of your tooth, dehydrating the tooth surface so the whiting solution can get into the tooth and pulling out the pigment by bleaching it.
There are a couple of ways to chemically whiten your teeth that will actually give you results.
- Crest Whitestrips – at home (these are the best ones you can buy, they are worn for the least amount of time, with the most effective % of whitening ingredients, some of the cheaper ones will not give you as great results as fast!)
- In-office custom whitening trays and gel that you take home
- In-office, in-chair whitening. It’s done in one visit to the dental office.
Consult with your dental professional
Before you try anything to whiten your teeth you should speak to your dental professional. They can discuss with you what your best option is for whitening.
Your mouth is as unique as your fingerprint.
Your oral health provider can go over your mouth and discuss your best options. Please do not take your mouth on as a DIY project.
You don’t want to damage your teeth and gums, because it can be irreversible.
White teeth take some hard work and dedication. By preventing or professionally whitening your teeth, you can achieve a whiter and brighter smile.
All in all, enjoy your coffee the way you like it. If you are like me, this time of day is where I get to sit back and enjoy a coffee. It’s one of my simple life pleasures. If black coffee isn’t for you and you like a little bit of cream in it, do what makes you happy.
If you really like your coffee with a bit of cream and sugar, so be it. Just try and take precautionary measures to prevent stain and cavities. Drink that cup quickly, and rinse your mouth with water after or even between sips.