Does Coffee Cause Cavities?

If your day includes at least one cup of coffee, you are not alone. According to the National Coffee Association, 7 in 10 Americans drink coffee every week, with 62% drinking at least one cup of coffee every day, with the average coffee drinker…

If your day includes at least one cup of coffee, you are not alone. According to the National Coffee Association, 7 in 10 Americans drink coffee every week, with 62% drinking at least one cup of coffee every day, with the average coffee drinker consuming over three cups a day. While this wonderful beverage may give you the energy to get through your day, is it healthy for your oral health? At Image Dental, our goal is to help you promote a healthy smile. The good news is being a regular coffee drinker doesn’t mean your oral health is necessarily in danger.

Coffee and cavities

You have probably heard people say that coffee is not good for your teeth but does it really cause cavities? The truth is coffee itself does not directly cause cavities, but it can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel or the protective layer of your tooth. Coffee is highly acidic and drinking it on a regular basis can contribute to the weakening of your enamel. When your enamel breaks down, bacteria can easily enter, causing decay and cavities. Drinking coffee with added creamers and sugars increases the bacterial production in your mouth, increasing your risk of developing cavities.

But coffee isn’t all bad for your teeth and new research even shows it can help prevent cavity development. A 2002 study shows that roasted coffee beans have antibacterial activities against certain bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, that are a major cause of cavities. It appears coffee prevents adhesion of this bacteria to tooth enamel. Another study from 2009 compared regular coffee drinkers with those that did not consume coffee and found that people drinking black coffee without any additives showed lower cavity scores.

Preventing cavities

While black coffee shows benefits in cavity reduction, not everyone drinks their coffee black. If you enjoy that caramel macchiato or add a splash of creamer and two cubes of sugar to your coffee, your risk of cavity development increases. The good news is there are things you can do to reduce the risk. Consider these tips when drinking your favorite beverage.

  • Drink with a straw – Drinking your coffee through a straw minimizes the contact with your teeth.
  • Sip water – Drinking sugary coffee allows the sugars to build up in your mouth, especially if you sip coffee throughout the day. Sipping water in between coffee helps to wash away the sugary substances that sit on your teeth.
  • Wait to brush your teeth – Because the acid in coffee can weaken your enamel, wait at least 20 minutes after your coffee to brush your teeth. This gives your enamel time to harden before brushing.
  • Practice good oral hygiene – Regular brushing and flossing, along with regular dental checkups, help to promote a healthy mouth and reduce the risk of cavities.
Other effects of coffee: tooth discoloration

Other effects of coffee: tooth discoloration

Coffee contains the natural ingredient tannin. This is a polyphenol that breaks down in water and is also found in tea and wine. Unfortunately, tannins contribute to discoloration of the enamel of the tooth. These tannins can stain the surface of your enamel. In addition, the acidic properties of coffee can break down your enamel, exposing the dentin of your tooth, giving a yellowish appearance. While many people think adding creamer can reduce the risk of discoloration, this is not the case. The addition of creamer can actually increase the enamel breakdown, increasing the yellowish appearance.

Different types of tooth discoloration

There are two different types of tooth discoloration. Extrinsic discoloration affects the outer layer of the enamel and is the most common form of discoloration from coffee tannins. Intrinsic discoloration comes from the inner structure of the tooth, or the dentin, and is exposed when the enamel weakens. Intrinsic discoloration is often due to excessive fluoride exposure in childhood, use of tetracycline antibiotics in childhood, dental trauma, or the rare condition dentinogenesis imperfecta, which causes gray or purple tooth discoloration.

Treatment options

Treatment options

The good news is you don’t have to live with stained teeth. Many different treatment options can help remove extrinsic stains from coffee tannins and give you back your beautiful white smile.

Good oral hygiene

A good oral hygiene routine that includes regular brushing and flossing can help to slowly remove coffee stains as they happen and keep your teeth looking their best. Consider brushing with whitening toothpaste for best results.

Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide

Another treatment option that helps remove coffee stains combines hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Hydrogen peroxide stimulates the tooth enamel to release the tannins in the teeth and baking soda simply helps to speed the reaction. While you may already use a toothpaste with peroxide or baking soda, you can make your own treatment by mixing a few drops or hydrogen peroxide with enough baking soda to create a paste. Simply apply the paste to your teeth and leave it on for 15 minutes before brushing your teeth.

Professional cleaning

General guidelines recommend a professional dental cleaning every six months to help maintain good oral health and help your dentist catch possible dental concerns before they become a problem. The good news is these regular dental cleanings also help to remove coffee stains and give you back a bright and beautiful smile.

Teeth whitening treatments

Teeth whitening treatments are another option to help remove coffee stains. You can choose over-the-counter home treatments for minimal staining, or you can talk to your dentist about professional in-office whitening treatments to address serious coffee stains and tooth discoloration.

Preventing tooth discoloration

The good news is you can also work to prevent tooth discoloration from your coffee. Similar to cavity prevention from coffee, these tips help reduce the risk of staining when you sip your favorite brew.

  • Use a straw – While your favorite coffee shop adds a straw to your cup to make drinking easier, it also helps to keep your teeth white. Drinking through a straw reduces the amount of contact your coffee has with your teeth, reducing the risk of tooth staining.
  • Drink lots of water – Drinking water in between your coffee helps to wash away coffee particles and tannins, reducing the risk of staining.

You can love coffee and still have a healthy smile!

You don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite coffee beverage in order to have a healthy smile. Adjusting how you drink your coffee and make sure to follow a good oral hygiene routine can help you keep your smile bright and healthy while you still enjoy your favorite cup of Joe. At Image Dental we are here to answer all your dental questions and our preventive dentistry team is here to help you schedule your regular dental cleanings to keep the coffee stains at bay. For more information about coffee and your teeth or to schedule an appointment, visit us online today or call the office at (209) 955-1500.

Stephen Nozaki, DDS, MPH, DIDIA

Dr. Stephen Nozaki is the owner and lead dentist at Image Dental in Stockton. He is a dedicated professional born and raised in California's Central Valley. With a commitment to his community, he brings advanced dental techniques learned from extensive education and continuous training from around the world. A third-generation Japanese American, Dr. Nozaki has a rich background that includes international living and a deep passion for both dentistry and outdoor activities. His focus in dentistry aligns with his passion for cosmetics and dental implants.