There’s another hazard to drinking tea, beyond the fluoride issue we looked at last month – one that’s shared with both coffee and wine: It can really stain your teeth. Not only is this unsightly; it can actually make you look…well…old.
Yet, also like tea, coffee and wine may have some real oral health benefits, too, thanks to their own antioxidant content. So the question becomes: How can you enjoy drinks like these and keep your teeth looking their best?
Brush your teeth before you start nursing that cup of coffee or sipping that glass of wine, not afterwards.
Now, this might seem counterintuitive. Wouldn’t you want to brush afterward, to remove any traces of what you just drank?
The trouble is, other than water and raw milk, most beverages tend to be acidic, some more than others. Sugary drinks – like that big Caffe Mocha you got or a cappuccino with a few extra pumps of flavor – lower the pH in your mouth even further. If you brush while acids are in your mouth, you’re essentially brushing acid into your teeth. This damages the enamel over time, which makes your teeth more vulnerable to decay.
The rougher surface also makes them a whole lot easier to stain. Simply, there’s more for pigments in the drink to grab onto. This is why even white wine can lead to staining. Although there’s not much pigment, the acids prime your teeth for staining by darker drinks (and food) later.
That points to another benefit you get by brushing first: When you remove plaque in advance, there’s again less for the coffee – or wine or tea or soft drink – to cling to. More of it simply washes over your teeth.
Once you’re done, you can rinse your mouth with water to help neutralize any lingering acids more quickly. You could also chew some sugarless gum – ideally, gum sweetened with xylitol or erythritol, both of which have been shown to protect against decay. More, the gum chewing will help stimulate saliva flow, cleansing your teeth even as your saliva delivers minerals back to your teeth to help keep them strong.
But what if you really, really, REALLY want to brush afterwards? Simply wait 20 to 30 minutes before you do. That’s enough time for your saliva to neutralize the acids on its own, getting your oral pH back to normal.
Even if you do get some staining, home whitening kits are bound to be more effective when you’ve been protecting the health of your enamel in this way. Professional whitenings like those we can provide here in our Fremont office can be even better, while also providing the best aesthetic results possible.