Is Coffee Bad For Your Teeth?

Is Coffee Bad for Your Teeth

Is coffee bad for your teeth?

On average, the UK drinks 95 million cups of coffee per day according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research

However, could such a commonplace beverage actually be a detriment to your oral health? 

Whilst the effects of coffee can stain your teeth and can occasionally lead to tooth decay, there are things you can do to prevent it.

Interestingly, research indicates there are some health benefits to consider too!

Is Coffee Bad For Teeth

How Coffee Stains Your Teeth

Coffee originates from beans of the Coffea plant, which is rich in organic compounds called Tannins,  a polyphenol that dissolves in water. This produces coffee’s innate, bitter taste whilst the high levels of chromogens result in coffee’s dark colour. 

Tannins can dye fabric so it’s no wonder that it contributes to the staining of teeth by  allowing the coloured, chromogen particles to cling to your enamel, resulting in a yellowish or darkened hue.

 This process is a consequence of regular coffee consumption. 

Evidently, coffee actually contains half the tannin concentration that most teas possess, therefore  it’s not the worst culprit. 

On average, coffee contains 4.6% tannic acid compared ton the whopping 11.2% tannic acid that teas possess.

Coffee is also acidic, like carbonated drinks or vinegar. This means regular exposure can wear down the enamel, allowing the dentin (layer of tooth below the enamel) to show through. This can also lead to a yellowish colour.

Is Coffee Bad for Your Teeth
Is Coffee Bad for Your Teeth

How to prevent Coffee Stains

  • Use a straw: this decreases the volume of coffee reaching the teeth.
  • Use an electric toothbrush: the Journal of Clinical Periodontology states that electric toothbrushes lead to tooth decay being 18% less likely to occur than with a manual toothbrush due to its plaque removing ability.
  • Brush teeth after drinking: this reduces the tannin buildup and a specialised, whitening toothpaste will help to keep teeth bright.
  • Regular dental cleanings: tooth staining isn’t merely a cosmetic inconvenience. In serious cases, it can cause gum disease and other infections so consistent cleanings can remove buildups of plaque and maintain the health of the enamel which in turn can reduce staining.

How to Fix Coffee Stains

An inexpensive method to treat teeth staining is to brush your teeth with baking soda twice a month.

At first glance, it could seem like an inaccurate home remedy however, the Journal of Clinical Dentistry (January 2011) states that products containing baking powder (or baking soda in the US) are more effective than products without it.

The American Dental Association (ADA) also labelled baking soda as safe for your enamel and dentin so consider using it once in a while to improve the appearance of your teeth.

Can Coffee Cause Tooth Decay?

A common misconception is that coffee directly relates to tooth decay when in actuality, it is merely a factor which can result in cavities.

As previously mentioned, coffee is acidic, meaning it can soften and even break down the enamel over time.

The enamel functions as a wear-resistant barrier that protects the teeth from chemical, thermal and physical forces that can occur daily from eating.

 Therefore, if this layer is compromised, tooth decay alongside bacterial damage can arise more easily.

However, dental caries (tooth decay) could be prevented by the natural, antibiotic properties inherent to black coffee according to the 2009 Journal of Conservative Dentistry. However, popular use of sugar, creamers and even milk can minimise these effects.

Moreover, coffee contains trigonelline which can intercept bacteria before it penetrates the enamel.

Prevention of Tooth Decay

  • Use sugar free medicines
  • Eat acid-neutralising foods- eating foods, like cheese, after drinking coffee can help balance the pH levels in the mouth, reducing chances of tooth decay 
  • Drink black coffee- the absence of additives in your coffee can allow the natural benefits to defend the teeth from bacteria
  • Chewing sugar-free gum-  the action of chewing stimulates mechanical plaque control whilst salivating acts as a natural barrier that protects the teeth. Moreover, sugar-free gum contains the vital ingredient xylitol which has been proven to actually fight against tooth decay.

Can Coffee Cause Bad Breath?

Coffee can cause halitosis (bad breath) because it sticks to the tongue.  The acid present in coffee, together with roasted coffee and tannins produce sulphur compounds. Coffee also dries the mouth, another culprit of bad breath.

These sulphur compounds and bacteria will multiply in the mouth if they are not dealt with producing volatile sulphur compounds (VSC); a key cause of bad breath.

To prevent this, eat food before drinking coffee and use a tongue scraper to improve oral health.

You can read our blog here that delves into the remedies of stubborn cases of halitosis.

Can Coffee Benefit Your Oral Health?

Recent studies in 2019 researched the effects of chlorogenic acid ( a main component of coffee) on Porphyromonas gingivalis- the key pathogen that causes severe gum disease. 

The study showed that the coffee actually diminished the activity of this pathogen which as a result decreased the chances of gum disease.

Summary

Good news coffee lovers! 

Whilst coffee can stain your teeth, as long as it’s consumed within moderation and you prioritise your oral health by booking the occasional dental cleaning and by brushing regularly, you can continue to drink it.

Don’t forget that there’s also promising research portraying components of coffee as ingredients that can reduce the risk of various bacteria and pathogens.

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