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It’s widely understood that the acidic properties in coffee can damage tooth enamel, but the beverage’s impact on our entire oral health status is not so cut and dry. Here we clear up some of the major myths around drinking coffee and oral health.
How coffee harms oral health
Myth #1: Coffee stains teeth
True. It only takes one cup of coffee to stain our teeth because it’s high in tannins. Tannins are a polyphenol, a type of organic compound, that breaks down in water and makes color compounds stick to our teeth. The yellow film that this process creates can be hard to remove.
There are also ways in which coffee improves oral health, however, and the vast majority of negative effects that the beverage induces are reversible.
Myth #2: Coffee weakens the enamel on our teeth
True. Enamel is the outermost layer of our teeth that protects them from nerve damage. Drinking too much coffee can weaken enamel to the point that our teeth become extremely sensitive and susceptible to disease and neural trauma. This is especially true if you drink your coffee with milk and sugar.
Acids in coffee are yet another enemy of healthy tooth enamel — likely the most harmful of them all.
“Food and drink acids soften the enamel, thus making it easier for stains to penetrate through the enamel,” according to DentaVox, a dental survey site. “Moreover, the high acidity level in the mouth is the main cause of tooth decay. “
Myth #3: Brushing your teeth immediately after drinking coffee helps reduce damage to teeth
False. You can reduce a lot of the damage coffee does to your teeth by not brushing them immediately after drinking coffee, when your enamel is still soft from the acids in the coffee. Try to wait for a half-hour to an hour before brushing.
How coffee helps oral health
Myth #4: Coffee helps fight plaque
True. DentaVox cited a Brazilian experiment that found robusta coffee beans cause harmful, plaque-causing bacteria to die.
“They suspect that the reason for the antibacterial properties of black coffee is again the polyphenols,” according to a DentaVox article. “The ‘bad guys’ that color teeth are high in antioxidants which offers numerous health benefits.”
Myth #5: Coffee is good for your gums
True. Drinking coffee regularly may also be good for the gums.
A recent paper by Dr. Raul Garcia, Chair of Health Policy & Health Services Research at Boston University, determined that the anti-inflammatory properties of caffeine help prevent gum disease and bone loss.
“Overall, the results are important because when gums and teeth are healthy and strong, there is less risk that they will fall out. Tooth loss is a common problem with age, so anything that can be done to reduce the risk is worthwhile to consider,” Garcia wrote.
Most health experts recommend limiting your coffee intake to two cups a day to reduce discoloration.
Below are 10 ways to protect your teeth and overall oral health if you’re a regular coffee drinker.
Read more articles about coffee here.