What Does Coffee Do to Your Teeth?

Updated August 19, 2016

Are you one of the many Americans that wake up in a fog? Do you groggily shuffle to the coffeepot to make yourself a cup of coffee before you can start to function for the day? Coffee seems to be an absolute morning need for some of us to start our day and actually wake up. Some people like coffee to wake them up while others like the routine of a hot, steaming cup of Joe. Still, others enjoy the warmth it brings them on a cold, wintry morning.

Americans consume more coffee than any other population on the planet, downing 400 million cups of the caffeinated beverage every day. Some might say it's a national obsession, with more than half of us saying we'd rather gain 10 pounds than give up our morning brew. But have you ever wondered what the coffee you love is doing to your teeth?

Coffee Contains Staining Tannins

What Does Coffee Do To Your Teeth?

Image via Flickr by ginnerobot

The word tannins is most commonly used when discussing red wines, but these substances are also present in coffee.  Tannins are a type of polyphenol which breaks down in water. These cause color compounds that tend to stick to your teeth. That's because teeth aren't as smooth and flat as they appear. They actually have microscopic ridges and pits which can hold food and drink particles, including those staining tannins. When they do, they can leave a yellow hue that's difficult to remove.

The more coffee you drink, the more tannins you consume and the more yellow your teeth become. If you happen to enjoy red wine as well, and even blueberry pie, you are unknowingly staining your teeth. But there is hope! You do not have to give up your favorite beverage. There are many teeth whitening remedies nowadays as well as ways to minimize tannins from sticking to your teeth to avoid staining.

Coffee Creates Acids in Your Mouth

There are so many beverages that we drink on a daily basis. We can consume coffee, soda, milk, juice, wine, spirits, and water. Of those, water is the only beverage that is not harmful to your teeth. Every beverage that isn't water causes the natural bacteria in your mouth to create acids that attack your teeth. If these acids aren't cleaned away quickly they can wear away the enamel that protects your teeth, leaving your pearly whites vulnerable to tooth decay.

It may seem silly to brush your teeth after every sip of non-water beverage you consume. It is time-consuming and not practical. But it is one way to eliminate the acid that wears away at your tooth enamel. This very reason is why you should not sip soda, coffee, or any other beverage all day long. With each sip, bacteria in your mouth create more and more acid that then attacks the enamel of each tooth in your mouth. It is best to drink your beverage quickly over a period of a few minutes rather than over a few hours. You are doing much less damage to your teeth if you gulp down that beverage!

Coffee Can Make You Clench Your Teeth

Coffee has caffeine in it. This is why we as Americans need our cup of Joe in the morning to get a jump start on our day. The caffeine wakes us up and causes our heart to race and sometimes feel jittery. This is acceptable in the morning when you have all day to process the coffee and the caffeine that comes with it. For those people who enjoy a cup of Joe before bed, this may have adverse effects on your sleeping habits.

What if you can’t give up your nighttime cup of coffee? Try only drinking half of the cup. You can also try a decaffeinated type of coffee to prevent you from the effects that caffeine can cause, such as stimulated muscles, hence the clenching of your teeth. Not only can clenching be harmful to your teeth, but it can be detrimental to your jaw and overall body. When you sleep with a clenched jaw, you are overworking those jaw muscles causing them to be inflamed and fatigued. This causes you to feel soreness in your jaw as well. Clenching can also cause you to sleep poorly, which can cause a very tiring and long day.

You might love a cup of coffee before bedtime, but studies show it often causes you to clench your teeth while you sleep. This bad habit can wear away your teeth's enamel and in severe cases, cause your teeth to chip or break. Experts suggest avoiding coffee and other caffeinated beverage four hours before bedtime to prevent these problems.

Prevent Coffee Damaging Your Teeth

Dentists recommend drinking no more than two cups of coffee today to minimize damage. However, since just one cup a day can cause problems, it's smart to employ other tactics to limit the drink's impact.

Drinking your coffee through a straw is one of the most effective ways to prevent dental damage. It might look strange, but the straw helps the coffee bypass your teeth to stop it staining.

If you're like the majority of Americans and take your coffee with cream and sugar, there are some compelling reasons to change your habits. These substances speed up the growth of the bacteria that damages your teeth.

It's also best to drink your coffee in just one sitting, rather than drinking it through the day, to ensure bacteria doesn't build up. Having something to eat before you drink your coffee will also minimize the damage.

After you've finished sipping, try to brush your teeth to clean away tannins and bacteria. If you can't brush your teeth, try snacking on raw fruits and vegetables including lemons and strawberries. These foods contain natural fibers which help break down harmful bacteria. Even rinsing your mouth with water can wash away some of the tannins and acids.

Coffee might taste great, but it's doing your teeth no favors. Remember to take preventative measures to enjoy your cup of joe and keep your smile.

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