Are you a daily coffee drinker? 64% of American adults are! In fact, Americans drink about 400 million cups of coffee every single day. All of that daily coffee consumption begs the question: What does drinking coffee do to our mouths? And, is coffee good or bad for oral health?
The answer depends largely on how you drink your coffee. Are you a fan of americanos, frappuccinos, lattes, cappuccinos, or do you take your coffee black? Do you drink one or two cups of coffee in the span of 30 minutes, or do you drink 5 cups of coffee over the span of several hours?
Let’s take a look at how drinking coffee can affect your oral health:
Drinking black, unsweetened coffee daily may help prevent oral cancers, according to some studies. Though further research is needed, it is theorized that the antioxidants in coffee may be responsible for the lowered risk of oral cancers due to their anti-inflammatory and metabolism-boosting properties, which may inhibit cell damage as well as the growth of cancer cells.
Coffee’s natural acidity can both help and hinder oral health. Evidence shows that the acidity of coffee may prevent bacteria from sticking to our teeth’s surfaces, preventing it from forming into cavity-causing plaque. However, that same acidity can also cause erosion in tooth enamel with heavy consumption over time, softening enamel to the point where it is more susceptible to discoloration, staining, and tooth decay.
Regularly drinking coffee stains teeth. Drinking coffee through a straw can help minimize coffee stains, as can swishing your mouth with water after taking sips of coffee. We also recommend drinking coffee during a short span once a day, rather than sipping on coffee over several hours - anything to reduce the amount of time coffee has in contact with your teeth.
Over time, stains accumulate and may even form very visible brown streaks across teeth. This type of severe staining is still fortunately removable, though typically must be treated with targeted professional teeth whitening. Depending on how deeply the stains have penetrated into your teeth’s layers, you may need extrinsic or intrinsic teeth whitening, or both, to restore your teeth’s natural color.
Drinking coffee with additives increases your risk of developing cavities. Added sugars, creamers (dairy or non-dairy), and flavorings in coffee all negate the positive effects of drinking black coffee altogether, and in fact actively increases your risk of tooth decay.
Coffee breath is real - and is caused by sulfuric and acidic compounds as well as the caffeine inherent in coffee. These components all have a drying effect in the mouth and also slow the production of saliva, which in turn allows oral bacteria to grow and fester unchecked. The strongly smelling sulfuric compounds further contribute to mouth odor. Bacteria feeds on sugar, so sugar added to coffee may worsen your coffee breath even more.
However you enjoy your coffee, moderation is always key! The FDA recommends adults consume no more than 400 milligrams per day, or about 4 cups of coffee daily. Drinking black, unsweetened coffee is best. Sip or swish water after taking sips of coffee to minimize your risk of developing cavities and coffee breath. And, as always, brush and floss every day - it should be as much a part of your daily routine as your morning coffee!
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