Cavities, Bad Breath and Other Embarrassing Topics

The Sweet Science of Chocolate Stains on Teeth

The surface of teeth, the enamel layer, is porous. This means that without regular brushing, the tiny molecules in some foods and drinks can cause staining. Although dark beverages, such as tea, coffee and red wine are the worst culprits, chocolate can also stain teeth.

If, like many people, you regularly partake of chocolate in both its liquid and solid form, you should be aware of the risks.

Chocolate Contains Tannins

The main reason that chocolate stains teeth is due to tannins. Cocoa beans, which are the main ingredient of chocolate, contain tannins. In plants, seeds and leaves, etc., tannins perform several functions. Their bitterness acts as a defense mechanism, protecting plants from predators. Flowers get their colour from tannins.

Tannins bind to proteins and other natural compounds. This ability to bind to organic molecules causes chocolate to stain the surface of teeth. After you have eaten chocolate, the tannins cling to your teeth and attract staining molecules found in both chocolate and any other foods that you might soon eat.

Chocolate is High in Sugar

When you munch on a bar of chocolate, your teeth become coated in a sugary residue. This sugar allows the bacteria in your mouth to satisfy their "sweet tooth". Unfortunately, after they have done that, they produce acid. This acid literally etches the surface of your teeth, making them rough and more porous than usual.

Both bacteria and staining molecules can cling to a rough surface much more easily than they can a smooth surface. You should brush your teeth 30 minutes after partaking of chocolate then, to remove both the tannins and the sugary residue.

Teeth Whitening Combats Stains

If your love of chocolate, or indeed anything else that stains, has left your teeth discoloured, teeth whitening might be the answer. Teeth whitening systems work by neutralizing the staining molecules in the upper layers of enamel. The peroxide contained in whitening systems enters the pores of teeth in order to remove stains.

Although chocolate can also benefit teeth, it can also stain teeth, as was shown by a tooth stain index of Korean foods. Chocolate, along with kimchistew and instant noodles, was high on the list of staining foods. Fortunately, in-office whitening and over-the-counter whitening systems—when used responsibly—can remove chocolate stains.

Don't let stains ruin your smile and your confidence, seek out a cosmetically trained dentist who can return your smile to its former brilliance.