Do you need that morning cup of java before you can get up and go every morning? If you start your morning with a tall latte, you are not alone. Millions of Americans turn to a rich morning cup of coffee, but how bad is coffee for your teeth? At Soundview Family Dental, we are here to answer all your dental questions when it comes to coffee, and you might just be surprised. While coffee can contribute to dental concerns, it also offers some oral health benefits.
Does coffee stain your teeth?
Your morning coffee comes from the coffee beans, or seed, of the Coffea plant. These beans contain ingredients called tannins, a type of polyphenol that breaks down in the water. You can find these tannins in beverages such as coffee, tea, and wine. In addition, chromogens are compounds that give the coffee a rich, dark color. When you drink a cup of coffee, the tannins make it easier for the chromogen pigments to stick to the teeth, creating a yellowish appearance.
Also, coffee is highly acidic. Regular exposure to highly acidic beverages can soften and break down the enamel of your teeth over time. When this occurs, it is easier for stains to set in. As your enamel thins, the dentin, or layer of your tooth below the enamel, can show through, giving a more yellow appearance.
Preventing stains from coffee
The good news is you do not need to give up coffee to keep your smile bright. Some regular habits can help you keep your coffee from altering your teeth’ color. These can include:
- Use a straw – The best thing you can do to keep your coffee from staining your teeth is to drink with a straw. When you use a straw, the coffee bypasses your teeth, reducing the risk of contact.
- Brush teeth after drinking – When you finish your final cup of coffee for the day, immediately brush your teeth to help remove the buildup of tannins. Using toothpaste with a whitening agent will also help to keep your teeth fresh and bright.
- Rinse your teeth – If brushing your teeth is not an option, rinse your mouth with water after you drink your cup of coffee. This will help wash away the tannins and help reduce buildup.
- Regular dental visits for teeth cleanings – Regular dental cleanings help remove plaque buildup and surface stains keeping the enamel healthy, which reduces the risk of staining.
Fixing coffee stains
If your years of coffee drinking have left your teeth a little less than bright, there are still things you can do to help bring back that radiant smile.
Brushing your teeth twice a day reduces additional buildup while using whitening toothpaste can help remove your coffee stains. As mentioned above, regular dental cleanings are often enough to remove coffee stains. However, in extreme staining cases, you should talk with your dentist about teeth whitening treatments or veneers to give you that bright smile.
Can coffee cause tooth decay?
This idea is a common misconception. Coffee does not directly cause tooth decay, but it can contribute to your risk of tooth decay. Because coffee is acidic in nature, over time, it can soften and break down the enamel of your teeth. The enamel works as a protective barrier for your teeth and when this breaks down, the risk for bacterial damage and tooth decay increases.
A recent study has shown that coffee can actually help to prevent your risk of dental decay and cavities, but it all depends on how you drink your coffee. The 2009 study in the Journal of Conservative Dentistry, shows that the natural antibacterial properties in coffee can prevent dental caries. However, this is only if you drink your coffee black. Adding milk, sugars, and creamers minimize or eliminate these natural benefits.
Prevention of tooth decay
Just as there are tips to help reduce the risk of staining from coffee, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of dental decay when drinking coffee. Good oral hygiene is essential. Regular tooth brushing after drinking coffee, as well as rinsing your teeth with water and regular dental cleanings, can help.
Also, these tips can help keep your enamel protected and reduce your risk:
- Eat acid-neutralizing food – While rinsing with water is a good place to start, eating foods, such as cheese, after drinking coffee can help neutralize the acid from the coffee and help protect your enamel.
- Drink your coffee black – Drinking your coffee without added creamers, milk, or sugar allows the natural antibacterial benefits of the coffee to help protect your teeth from bacteria.
Does coffee cause bacterial growth?
This is another coffee misconception. In fact, recent studies such as the one previously referenced show that coffee provides antibacterial properties. A 2019 study, on the other hand, looked at the effects of coffee extract and one of its primary components (chlorogenic acid) on the activity of Porphyromonas gingivalis, the main pathogen responsible for periodontitis (severe gum disease). The study showed that coffee reduced the activity of P. gingivalis, reducing the risk of gum disease.
How bad is coffee for your teeth?
While coffee can dull your bright smile with its staining properties, coffee is not all that bad for your teeth, provided you follow regular oral hygiene and visit your dentist on a regular basis. If you drink your coffee black, you may even notice some dental benefits from your favorite coffee bean.
If you have questions about your coffee intake and how it might be affecting your teeth or have questions about teeth whitening to remove teeth stain, Dr. Kitts is here to help. Contact Soundview Family Dental online today for an appointment or call our office at (425) 563-6360.