Ah, coffee. You taste delicious, perk us up, and – consumed in reasonable quantities – you are really good for us. According to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine nutrition experts, coffee contains antioxidants and other active substances that may reduce internal inflammation and protect against conditions like coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia and kidney disease.
No wonder we celebrate National Coffee Day every year on September 29th, and International Coffee Day on October 1st. And coffee consumption is at a two-decade high in America, with 66% of Americans drinking coffee every day, more than any other beverage, according to a study by the National Coffee Association.
But before you drink a delicious cup of coffee in honor of these special days, there’s some bad news. Coffee is not kind to your teeth; it can stain and even damage them.
How to Protect Your Teeth from Coffee
Coffee is acidic and can weaken dental enamel, enabling bacteria to penetrate the tooth’s softer inner pulp. This can lead to decay, gum disease – even tooth loss. And if you like your coffee with sugar, you run an even higher risk of dental damage. Sugar feeds the destructive oral bacteria that live in your mouth, the bacteria then release acids which further weaken tooth enamel.
Luckily, you don’t have to swear off drinking coffee forever. You can find tasty low-acid coffees, which are easier on your teeth and your stomach. And, in general, dark roast coffees as well as coffee made with a cold brew process, are less acidic. Rinsing your mouth with plain water after enjoying any cup of coffee will help neutralize the acid.
Dental enamel is soft right after exposure to any acidic beverage, and brushing can cause damage. But don’t brush your teeth right after having coffee! Wait about an hour, then clean your teeth.
How to Prevent Coffee Stains on Teeth
Coffee contains tannins, just like tea and red wine. Tannins can stain your teeth, because they cause proteins, sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, bacterial cell membranes, and enzymes in your mouth to stick on tooth enamel.
Regular professional dental cleanings are essential to help keep coffee from dimming your smile. But you can try natural tooth whiteners between cleanings. Eating crunchy fruits and vegetables can help to keep teeth white and may lift some light stains. And chewing sugar-free gum helps promote saliva production, essential for clean and healthy teeth and gums. Saliva helps wash away the bacteria and debris that can lead to gum disease and dental decay.
Tannins are also to blame for the “dry mouth” feeling you can experience after drinking coffee – tannins have an astringent effect because they bind to the proteins in your saliva and interfere with their ability to keep the inside of your mouth moist.
There was some research awhile back that indicated that tannins can reduce bacterial activity and protect your teeth from cavities. Green tea has similar benefits without the risk of staining. If you’re curious about this, ask your dentist what they think.
How to Remove Coffee Stains from Teeth
Over-the-counter whitening treatments may help. But ask your dentist for advice if you’ve had restorative treatments such as bonding, veneers, crowns, fillings in the front of your teeth, or if your teeth are badly stained. Do-it-yourself whitening treatments can harm previous dental work or result in unevenly colored teeth. And absolutely check with your dentist before whitening your teeth if you have gum disease, fragile dental enamel, sensitive teeth, or specific medical conditions.
Carefully read labels before buying products – the American Dental Association warns that OTC whitening products containing over 10 percent hydrogen peroxide or 35 percent carbamide peroxide can hurt your gums.
Your best bet? Get your teeth cleaned twice a year and ask your dentist or dental hygienist about the best ways to get a brighter smile. Your options may include professional whitening treatments (in your dentist’s office or at home) or dental veneers (also known as overlays) if your teeth have stains that can’t be removed with surface treatments.
In Office: Your dentist will protect your gums with a desensitizing gel or shield before applying a peroxide gel to your teeth. The solution is then activated by exposure to a high-intensity light. Expect to spend a half-hour to an hour in the dentist’s chair. You may need more than one appointment. Average cost is $450-$600.
At Home: Your dentist will custom-fit a set of “whitening trays,” (flexible molds which you’ll place over your teeth) or will provide you with a kit that contains the trays and a peroxide gel. The whitening product used is weaker than the one utilized in the dentist’s office, but more powerful than an over-the-counter product. Typically, you’ll wear the trays for 4-8 hours daily over the course of ten days. Average cost is $400-$500.
Talk to your dentist to see which type of treatment is best for you.
If your budget doesn’t include regular dental care, you may want to look into dental savings plans - an affordable alternative to dental insurance. Plan members can save 10-60% on most dental procedures, including cosmetic treatments like whitening and overlays which are not usually included with traditional insurance. If you’d like to learn more, you can reach out to us at 1-833-735-0399.