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Is Coffee Bad for Your Teeth? What You Need to Know!

young woman smiling while holding a cup of coffee

For many of us, starting our day with a cup of coffee is just as important as brushing our teeth. If you are someone who loves coffee, chances are you probably drink it more than once throughout the day. If you drink more than one cup of coffee daily, someone has probably already told you that coffee causes your teeth to stain. However, is coffee truly bad for your teeth? Looking directly at the effect coffee has on your pearly whites, the sad truth is, yes, drinking coffee is bad for your dental health overall.

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If It Stains Your Clothes, it will Stain Your Teeth

Coffee, like dark sodas and wine, can stain your teeth. While stains are superficial and can be polished off with a dental cleaning, coffee stains teeth on a deeper level. Coffee contains natural tannins that are used in tanning leather, dyeing fabrics, or even making ink. Tannins are a polyphenol that breaks down in water and makes it easier for colored compounds to stick to the surface of your teeth.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to drinks staining your teeth is: if it can stain your clothes, it can stain your teeth. Drinking coffee, even one cup, can leave brown and yellow stains on your teeth that polishing cannot remove. If you have ever looked into your ceramic coffee mug and noticed the dark brown stain lines where your coffee used to fill the cup, you shouldn’t be surprised it can do the same to your teeth.

stained teeth difference
Image Credit: geralt, Pixabay

Coffee Erodes Your Tooth Enamel

Coffee is an acidic drink, and its acid level will shift the balance in your mouth from building your tooth enamel to breaking down the enamel. Coffee is not the only beverage or substance that affects your teeth; tea, soda, red wine, cigarettes, and even certain fruits can all cause staining and erosion of your tooth enamel.

Enamel is the outer layer that keeps your teeth healthy while protecting them from bacteria. The enamel on your teeth might be a hard substance, but it is not indestructible. When your tooth enamel deteriorates, your teeth can become more sensitive to hot and cold sensations, cavities, diseases, or other tooth decay. The common misconception is that coffee causes tooth decay, which isn’t true. Coffee doesn’t directly cause cavities or promote tooth decay; it just makes it easier for cavities to form due to its destructive properties with tooth enamel.

brush your teeth before coffee
Image credit: Try_my_best, Shutterstock

Tips to Enjoy Your Coffee without Ruining Your Teeth

You can still enjoy your morning cup (or cups) of coffee if you keep in mind the long-term effects it can have on your teeth.

  • Limit how much coffee you drink in one sitting: For many of us, one cup of coffee is not enough. Drinking excessive amounts of coffee will increase the rate at which your enamel decays and your teeth stain.
  • Drink coffee with milk or creamer: Drinking coffee with added milk or creamer will lessen the overall staining effects of the coffee. Drinking black coffee, while better for your overall health, is worse for your teeth.
  • Drink coffee with a straw: If you are a warm coffee drinker, the idea of drinking it with a straw might seem strange to you. However, drinking coffee with a straw will limit coffee’s direct contact with your teeth.
  • Eat something before your coffee: Eating before you have your morning cup of coffee can help build a protective layer on your teeth that the acidic coffee must work through first before staining your teeth.

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Drink Coffee While Maintaining Oral Health

Thankfully, there is no reason why you have to stop drinking coffee to maintain dental health. While a dentist can check how much damage coffee has done to your teeth, there are small changes you can make regarding your coffee consumption that can lessen coffee’s effects on your teeth. If you have an excellent oral hygiene routine and have no problem sticking to it, you shouldn’t be afraid to drink coffee.

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Featured Image Credit: Candice Picard, Unsplash


Samantha Reed

Samantha teaches middle school English language arts and has been a freelance writer since 2014. She has also worked at literary magazines and newspapers as an editor and as a writer. You could say that writing is her passion! She also enjoys a great cup of coffee and has a cat named Raven.

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