Caffeine and Cavities — Why You Should Kick That Coffee Habit
Caffeine is a well-established habit for many Americans. We have a cup of Joe or java almost every day. Caffeine can lurk in other sources however, whether it’s gum, soda, or energy bars that help us power through the day. While “catching up over coffee” is a long-standing tradition, there are a number of reasons to drink and consume less caffeine for the sake of your oral health.
How oral health is affected by caffeine
March is Caffeine Awareness Month, and whether you’re a dentist or a superstar patient, you’re probably one of the millions of Americans wondering how you can start cutting back on this addictive habit. You might not think that there’s any connection between your morning coffee and your beautiful smile, but as with most things, there’s more than meets the eye, or in this case, the tooth.
Does coffee hurt your enamel?
Unfortunately, the single biggest issue with overconsumption of coffee and caffeine is enamel loss. Your enamel is basically a “shield” that protects your teeth from all the foods and liquids that you consume. When you think about it, we subject our mouths to a lot of abuse each day every time we eat or drink. Without this coating, your teeth will be unprotected against these acidic edibles, leading to a higher risk of cavity formation, bad breath, and possibly whole tooth loss.
Tooth staining and discoloration
You’re probably aware that people who smoke tobacco typically get stained teeth due to their daily habit, but did you know that the same thing happens to habitual caffeine drinkers? Think about how many times your morning coffee has touched your teeth, and you’ll realize you’re probably giving caffeine a bigger piece of oral real estate than you want. If you must indulge, it’s recommended that you use a straw.
DIY oral health awareness tips
Typically, negative caffeine usage symptoms don’t happen overnight. Even if your daily oral hygiene regiment is top notch, there are a few things to look for if you suspect that you may have an infection or problem with your teeth:
- Visible loss of enamel (teeth start looking “transparent”)
- Sensitivity to certain foods or temperatures (ie: sugar, hot or cold liquid)
- Excessive redness, bleeding, or swelling before or after brushing
- Receding gumline or loose teeth
Visit your dentist before these symptoms start, and always once they appear. It pays to be prepared, and staying on top of things now means that you won’t need to worry about ruining your lovely smile the next time you grab a cup of (decaf) coffee.