You may have seen a blog or post on social media advising you to drink your coffee through a straw and wondered about the validity of that recommendation. Many patients ask their dentists if they would agree with this suggestion. This week’s article will explain all of the details you need to know about coffee, its effects on the teeth, and how to reduce your risk for damage.
Why is Drinking Coffee Bad for Your Teeth?
Most people think of the staining effect coffee can have on someone’s teeth, making them appear dark yellow or even brownish in color. While this certainly is a cosmetic problem, it actually is not the most dangerous aspect of drinking coffee.
It is true that the pigmented compounds in coffee can cause dark discoloration on the teeth. The good news is that this is largely reversible with consistent professional teeth cleanings and effective teeth whitening methods. Those with the darkest coffee stains typically have not undergone any professional dental care in quite some time.
There are some non-cosmetic dangers from heavy coffee intake, which we will discuss here.
Coffee by Itself
Coffee alone can cause damage to the teeth through its acidic pH. Black coffee typically falls at about 5.0 on the pH scale. This is below the threshold for enamel damage, which occurs at or below 5.5.
Drinking acidic beverages, like coffee, increases your risk for cavities, by making it easier for bacteria to penetrate the weakened enamel. It also increases the risk for enamel erosion, which is a gradual chemical wearing away of enamel through the acid softening effect. Coffee by itself carries the inherent risk for dental problems simply because it is acidic.
What You Put in Your Coffee
Many people put sugar or sweetened creamers into their coffee, which greatly increases the risk of cavities. The acidic pH weakens the enamel, and the sugar feeds the cavity-causing bacteria present in dental plaque. The sugar content in many prepared coffee drinks is as high as soda.
It is important to monitor the amount of sugar in your coffee or coffee beverage. Many people are unaware of the high levels of sugar and the increased cavity risk these drinks carry.
How Does Drinking from a Straw Change Coffee’s Effects on the Teeth?
Drinking through a straw allows the coffee liquid to bypass the front teeth. This could help reduce the amount of staining one experiences from drinking large quantities of coffee.
Unfortunately, it does not change the pH or sugar content of the coffee beverage, so it will not reduce the risk of dental disease that coffee has. Some make the argument that drinking through a straw allows one to swallow the liquid without it swishing over all of the teeth, but this is not supported by evidence. Drinking through a straw still exposes the enamel to the contents of the beverage.
What Practical Measures can I Take to Make Coffee Less Risky for My Oral Health?
We know how important your morning cup of coffee is, and we want you to enjoy it with the lowest risk for damage to your teeth possible. To do so, follow these important tips:
- Do not sip on your coffee over a prolonged period of time: Drink it quickly. This reduces the overall time your mouth is in an acidic environment.
- After drinking coffee, rinse your mouth with plain water or chew some sugar-free gum: This helps return the pH of your mouth to neutral as quickly as possible.
- Consider foregoing the sweetener in your coffee or switching to a sugar-free alternative: Reducing the sugar content in your daily beverages will lower the risk for cavities.
More Questions about Coffee’s Effects on the Health of Your Teeth? Call Rockland Dental Today!
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today at (845)-259-2500 or contact us to schedule a consultation with our dental experts. We can answer any question you have about coffee (or any other beverage of choice) and how it affects the teeth. We will also assess your current situation to alert you of any risk factors for dental diseases.