young woman with a bright smile drinking coffee in the morning

You may look forward to that morning coffee every day, but is it harmful to your teeth? Coffee seems to be one of those things that the media says is healthy one day and unhealthy the next. Many articles tout the health benefits of coffee, while opposing sources state it is not so good for you. And this is no different when it comes to your dental health.

Why Coffee May Harm Teeth

Let’s look at the possible problems that a daily cup of joe can cause, what alternatives you may want (or not want) to consider, and what you can do to help mitigate harm to your teeth.

Coffee Stains Enamel

You may have read that coffee stains your teeth. The tannins in coffee (which are also present in other drinks like wine and tea, sometimes in higher quantities) can penetrate the pores of your tooth enamel and, over time, can lead to a yellowish tint. This discoloration may be considered unsightly, but it is not dangerous or damaging to the teeth by itself.

You can take steps to decrease the effect of coffee on the color of teeth. For example, getting regular cleanings at your dentist, using a whitening toothpaste, and rinsing with water after drinking coffee can help reduce staining.

Acidic Beverages Erode Enamel

Acids erode tooth enamel. Unfortunately, coffee is acidic. Drinking a lot of coffee over time can potentially have a negative effect on tooth enamel, leaving you susceptible to tooth sensitivity and dacay.

Keep in mind that other drinks may not be great alternatives. Juice, soda, and alcoholic beverages tend to have a greater acidity level than coffee and can be even more damaging to teeth. With tea, on the other hand, it can depend. While green tea is actually slightly alkaline, black tea has a similar acidity to coffee. If you add lemon or other fruit flavors, it could increase acidity. Like coffee, if you add milk or cream, you will decrease the acidity slightly.

Coffee’s acidic pH can also lead to enamel erosion in the long term, but the effects can be mitigated by drinking water or eating dairy after coffee. While it may sound counterintuitive, do not brush your teeth directly after finishing your coffee, as the act of brushing too soon can damage teeth. Wait at least an hour before brushing after finishing any acidic food or beverage. And when you do brush, use fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen enamel.

Sugar and Your Teeth

Naturally occurring bacteria that live in our mouths feed on the sugars we consume throughout the day. While this is normal, excess sugar consumption leads to a build-up of the acid that results as a byproduct from the bacteria as it breaks down sugars. This acid can damage tooth enamel and cause cavities to form.

Many beverages, including soda, juice, and coffee drinks, contain a large amount of sugar. The recommended daily sugar intake is 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams) for men. Shockingly, just one 12-ounce can of Cola contains 39 grams of sugar.

Juice may appear to be a healthy alternative, yet one serving of orange or apple juice contains a similar amount of sugar as that can of soda. And some extra large coffee shop drinks can even have up to twice that amount. Black coffee does not contain any sugar, which is great news if you like your coffee sans sugar.

Health Benefits of Coffee

Despite these reasons for avoiding coffee, there is evidence that coffee may provide some added health benefits. Coffee is linked to a decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and colon cancer. There are possible additional benefits including helping with weight management, mental clarity, and energy.

What Should You Do?

Taking some extra precautions against negative dental consequences means you are probably safe to enjoy your coffee, at least in moderation. You can certainly cut back on your coffee intake, especially if you drink more than one to two cups per day. As mentioned above, rinsing with water after having coffee can help. In addition, scheduling your regular dental cleanings twice a year helps protect against stains and decay. If you already have discolored teeth, professional whitening treatments are available. To find out more, contact us today!