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How Coffee Affects Your Dental Health

Taking a sip of hot coffee in the morning or dropping by Starbucks for an iced Caffe Americano has been ingrained in people’s routines.

“There is something romantic about brewing a carafe, or holding a freshly-bought cup close, first thing,” says food and economic writer Roberto A. Ferdman.

According to research from the United States (US) National Coffee Association in 2010, 54 percent of Americans 18 and older drink coffee every day.

An average of $2.45 is spent for an espresso-based beverage. Meanwhile, $1.38 is fished out of the pocket for a cup of brewed coffee.

A recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine also found that people who drink a cup of coffee a day were 12-percent less likely to die from cancer; a stroke; diabetes; or heart, kidney, and respiratory diseases.

However, there are still concerns that come with drinking coffee frequently. One of those concerns has to do with our oral health.

What does coffee do to your teeth?

Despite the health benefits drinking coffee might have, too much consumption may not be good for the teeth.

One cup of coffee a day increases the chances of cavities. Additionally, coffee can contribute to halitosis or bad breath because of its thick scent and the way it increases oral bacteria in the mouth.

Coffee also causes tooth discoloration. Coffee discolors teeth because of an ingredient called tannin. Tannin is a type of polyphenol that breaks down in water. It is also apart of other beverages like wine and tea.

Coffee also helps bacteria in the mouth create acid which leads to tooth and enamel erosion. Enamel is made up of minerals, mainly hydroxyapatite, and serves as a protective layer of the teeth. This layer is also partially responsible for the color of the teeth.

The reflection of light on the enamel, when combined with the color of the underlying material under it known as the dentin, produces the color of the teeth. The thick enamel covers the deep yellow to brownish color of dentin. But when enamel becomes thin, the dentin becomes more visible, resulting in yellow teeth.

Adding creamer to coffee will not stop it from discoloring your teeth. In fact, the same pigments and acids present in darker-colored coffee are also found in lighter-colored coffee. Also, creamer and sugar only speed up the growth of bacteria.

Types of tooth discoloration:

  • Extrinsic tooth discoloration refers to the discoloration of the outer layer of the tooth: the enamel. It is often caused by the teeth being exposed to foods, drinks, or activities that stain the teeth. Coffee, wine, cola, and smoking can cause extrinsic tooth discoloration.
  • Intrinsic tooth discoloration affects the inner structure of the tooth: the dentin. There are various causes of intrinsic teeth discoloration which include:
    • Too much exposure to fluoride during childhood
    • Use of tetracycline antibiotics of your mother during her pregnancy or your use of the tetracycline when you were eight-years-old or younger
    • Childhood dental trauma
    • Dental trauma of the permanent tooth which caused internal bleeding, discoloring the tooth
    • Being born with dentinogenesis imperfecta, a rare condition causing gray, purple, or amber tooth discolorations
  • Age-related tooth discoloration is a combination of the extrinsic and intrinsic causes of teeth discoloration. The dentin naturally turns yellow as time passes while the enamel gets thinner. Thus, this allows the yellow dentin to show through.

How to prevent coffee from staining your teeth

To avoid the discoloration of the teeth, it is advisable to reduce coffee consumption. You may also use a straw when drinking to reduce contact with the teeth. Instead of sipping coffee throughout the day, drink it in one go to prevent the build-up of bacteria.

Drinking lots of water will also help for a quick rinse of residual liquids. Brushing teeth and flossing shortly after a cup of coffee will also help in reducing teeth stains. However, make sure to wait at least 30 minutes after drinking coffee to brush. This will allow the acid in your mouth to neutralize. Eating vegetables like carrots and celery after a cup of coffee will help in reducing tooth discoloration and freshening up the breath.

It is also best to visit a dentist at least once a year. Consult with your dentist the best way to achieve whiter teeth.

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