Don’t worry! We are NOT going to tell you to stop drinking coffee. We would never do that to you. For most of us, coffee is an essential part of everyday life.
There are some risks of a high coffee intake, and they could affect your oral health. In this week’s blog, we will explain how coffee affects the teeth, and how you can protect them!
What most people think of when they hear “the effects of coffee on your teeth” is dark coffee stains. Heavy coffee drinkers often suffer from yellow or even splotchy brown discolorations on the teeth. These stains begin as superficial, but they can become deeply embedded into the hard tooth structure over time.
Coffee contains darkly pigmented compounds called tannins. These compounds can bind to the minerals in the teeth due to the acidic pH of coffee, which weakens enamel. This makes coffee a particularly effective stainer of teeth.
In addition to affecting the appearance of the teeth, coffee can also affect your oral health in a few different ways. Heavy coffee drinkers need to be aware of these risks so that they can take measures to prevent damage to the teeth!
All beverages that contain caffeine have the effect of dehydrating the body. Caffeine pulls water with it out of the kidneys, making a greater volume of urine. This dehydration can lead to a dry mouth.
Your body cannot make enough saliva if it remains in a state of dehydration. If the mouth is dry, plaque becomes more sticky and difficult to remove from the teeth. A dry mouth has a higher risk for cavities and gum disease. It also tends to have noticeably bad breath.
Coffee is acidic. Its pH falls in the range of 4.8 to 5.1 on the pH scale. This is below the threshold for demineralization of enamel. Demineralization is the softening and weakening of hard tooth structure by acids. This weakening puts the tooth at risk for both cavities and acid erosion.
The effect of the acidic pH is worse the longer you expose your teeth to coffee. This means that someone who sips on coffee all day long will have a higher risk for acid damage than someone who drinks a cup very quickly in the morning.
Many people sweeten their coffee with sugar or flavored creamers. This added sugar, when combined with the acidic pH of coffee, increases the risk for cavities. The lowered pH makes the enamel weaker, and the sugar feeds the bacteria that cause cavities.
Sweetened coffee is more risky than black coffee.
We promised that we would not tell you to stop drinking coffee, and we won’t. We will tell you to change the way you enjoy your coffee, though. Here are some important ways you can protect your teeth while getting your coffee fix every day.
The sugar people add to coffee increases the risk for cavities, so if you can skip the sugar, you will automatically decrease that risk. Many flavored creamers are available in a sugar-free form. Switch from granulated sugar to xylitol, a natural sweetener that inhibits dental plaque!
Sipping on coffee throughout the day keeps the inside of your mouth at an acidic pH. The longer your mouth is acidic, the more risk you have for damage to your enamel. Drink it relatively quickly to reduce the length of time that your mouth is acidic.
Water is neutral in pH, and when you gently swish it around your mouth, it can quickly raise the pH from the acidic level of coffee back to neutral. Check the pH of your water if you drink it bottled. Most tap water is neutral, but some bottled water brands are actually slightly acidic, too.
Another way to quickly neutralize your mouth is by chewing sugar-free gum. Chewing a flavored gum stimulates the production of saliva. Our saliva is alkaline in pH, so it can counteract the acid in coffee.
Many people think that it is a good idea to brush right away to remove coffee stains. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous myth. Since coffee is acidic, your enamel is actually slightly weak as soon as you finish drinking it. The mechanical forces of brushing can actually abrade the teeth, removing enamel, if you brush while the pH in the mouth is still acidic. You can protect your enamel by waiting at least thirty minutes after drinking coffee to brush. Instead, drink some plain water and chew sugar-free gum!
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today to schedule a consultation with one of our dental specialists. We can answer any question you have about coffee and your teeth. We are happy to assess your specific situation and make unique recommendations to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy for life! Call us at (845) 259-2500 or complete our online contact form today!