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Which Stains are Toughest on our Teeth – Coffee or Tobacco?

Posted on June 25, 2012 | in Cosmetic Dentistry, Teeth Whitening | by

According to a May 2012 Journal of the American Medical Association article outlining a recent clinical study, coffee and cigarettes seem to stain teeth at about the same rate.

The author dentists conducted a study to evaluate the stain removal ability of tooth bleaching and simulated tooth brushing after coffee and cigarette smoke staining, and to determine the enamel susceptibility to restaining.

With tooth brushing alone, statistics indicated models stained from cigarette smoke responded better than those teeth stained from coffee…

As for tooth bleaching – aka teeth whitening – coffee stained and cigarette stained models both exhibited a significant reduction in color change after bleaching.

However, tooth brushing resulted in a significantly reduced color change only for cigarette smoke–stained specimens.

The study results showed that at-home bleaching removed both coffee and cigarette smoke staining. The restaining potential was greater for specimens stained with coffee than for those stained with cigarette smoke, regardless of the removal method used.

“We didn’t expect that cigarette staining would be so easily removed either by tooth bleaching or tooth brushing,” corresponding author Evelise M. Souza, DDS, MDS, PhD, a professor of restorative dentistry at the Pontifical Catholic University, told Medscape Medical News.

What does this mean?

Well, it certainly doesn’t give us the dental health carte blanche to go light up at will!

Cigarettes are still bad for our health, they kill us – slowly. Better to ditch the butts and double up on the coffee. Just be sure to consult with your dentist and hygienist before going out and wasting money on whitening toothpaste.

Maybe those of us that remain heavy habitual coffee drinkers can schedule a teeth whitening procedure every year or so too.

A growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are:

* less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia
* have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes

So there you have it, coffee and cigarettes may very well stain teeth at about the same rate – but removing those stains becomes a tough proposition without the help of a tooth whitening professional…our trusty neighborhood dentists!

Sure, take home kits or whitening strips from the supermarket might be a cheaper option – at first. But how many times per year would be required to achieve the same results of one professional teeth whitening session?

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+Chris Barnard is Managing Editor of, a patient-centric Social Dental Network blog dedicated to enabling the digital dental health conversation - and the eradication of the cavity creeps.
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