A recent study claims that drinking tea with milk helps in whitening teeth. True or false? By Dawn Chen

Drinking Milk Tea

Can drinking tea with milk help in whitening teeth? Photo: 123RF.com/karammiri

Recently, a study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene made waves in the media for the following claim: Adding milk to your tea can prevent your teeth from getting stained. In the study, researchers immersed extracted human teeth in two separate tea solutions – one with milk, and one without – for 24 hours, and found that the ones in milk tea were less stained.  

As a daily tea drinker, I found this piece of news both intriguing and exciting. Could adding milk to my daily cuppa also help to whiten teeth? We got in touch with Dr Steven Soo, a dental specialist in prosthodontics (an expertise in tooth restoration and repair) from Specialist Dental Group to get his take on the study. 

According to Dr Soo, while it is true that drinking tea with milk helps to lessen the effects of teeth staining compared to drinking tea without milk, “one should not rush to consume excessive amounts of milk tea in hope of having their teeth whitened to the same extent as teeth whitening treatments.” In short, while the caseins (a protein component in milk) help to reduce how much your teeth get stained, they offer no real whitening benefits of their own. 

Dr Soo also points out that the study was done based on extracted human teeth, and that is very different from teeth in your mouth, since the latter are alive and interact with a host of other factors including saliva and bacteria. 

Besides tea, other common foods that stain teeth include red and white wine, carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks, citrus fruits, berries, sauces (chilli, curry, barbeque etc.) and sweets. “There are two main factors to consider when deciding if a particular food stains one’s teeth – colour and acidity. The stronger the colour of the food/beverage is, the higher the potential of staining one’s teeth. Acidic food and beverages (may or may not be in strong colours) also promotes staining,” says Dr Soo.  

So in your quest to whiten teeth, it’s probably still a good idea to regulate your intake of tea – with or without milk!

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