Is A Daily Coffee Habit Ruining Your Teeth?

Will the rise of the coffee shop contribute to a decline in our oral health?

dental checkCoffee was first introduced to England in 1637 by a Turkish student at Oxford University who then founded a coffee club. In more recent times it has probably played a secondary role to tea drinking in the UK, until now that is.

Drinking coffee, it seems, is now perhaps our number one pastime as can be seen by the huge amount of chain coffee shops, along with some local speciality ones, in most towns and cities.

But does this matter for our teeth? Like anything, it depends on how we consume it. A black coffee alone will have no effect on the health of our teeth whatsoever if taken without sugar, apart perhaps from long-term staining effects. Unfortunately, as we shall see, many of the more ‘speciality’ coffees that these establishments sell could well have dire consequences for our teeth.

Cosmetic considerations

We said earlier that a no sugar black coffee won’t harm the teeth. This is true but it may well have an effect on how they look, especially if you drink them regularly. Coffee stains as anyone who has spilled it on themselves will be all too aware. It can also have this same staining effect on the enamel of our teeth, especially where the enamel has eroded, leaving a rough surface. Any coffee will do this, although stronger ones such as espressos are likely to have a more significant effect.

Brushing your teeth well will help to limit the staining and, as part of a healthy gum regimen, a scale and polish will also remove a lot of surface staining. Where it has become more severe, you may wish to consider either a professional teeth whitening procedure or even dental veneers.

Too much sugar

At the Clock Tower Dental Clinic, we regularly remind our Epsom dental patients that consuming too much sugar is bad for our teeth. This applies however we consume it. Cutting down (or out) sugar in our tea will have little effect if we have a diet that is overall high in it. Many products contain much higher quantities of sugar than we realise, unless we read the labels carefully.

The same applies to some of the drinks that are available, especially in the chain coffee shops. Whilst we can add our own sugar to drinks such as Americanos, lattes and cappuccinos, some others such as the Frappuccino range already have sugar in them.

You might shrug your shoulders and think that you already knew this. You don’t, for example, eat a bar of chocolate or or other sweet products not realising that it contains sugar. When it comes to some of these drinks though, we think you might be surprised at just how much sugar there is in some of them.

If we take one at random from a popular chain store’s menu, such as the Caramel Frappuccino, one that does sound as though it would be sweet, a large size of this drink actually contains 84 grammes of sugar, or approximately 20 teaspoons of sugar! Given that an average 100 gram chocolate bar contains roughly 50 grammes of sugar, that is an awful lot of sugar in one drink.

If you regularly ‘treat yourself’ to one of these coffees you are increasing the risk of obesity, along with its associated health problems. The NHS recommend just 30 grammes of sugar for an adult per day, a third of one of these drinks. Of course, you are also putting your teeth at greater risk.

Tooth decay

We know that sugar is a major contributor to tooth decay so it isn’t hard to see what damage regular consumption of his type of drink could cause, especially as some of us will drink them either on our way to work or as a lunchtime treat. This means that your teeth will be coated with sugar for a very long time before you next clean them.

As the enamel on your teeth erodes, tooth decay is likely to occur, leading to fillings, crowns and even root canal treatment. In very severe cases, and especially where you haven’t seen a dentist for a while, the tooth may need to be extracted.

This doesn’t mean that you have to give coffee up, and an occasional indulgence should not hurt. Plenty of coffee drinks allow you to add your own sugar, allowing you to monitor your overall intake; so it pays to take control when you call in for your morning booster or lunch-time treat.

You will also need to see one of our Epsom dental team for a check up every six months. This way, if a small amount of decay is detected, we can restore the tooth, hopefully by using a smaller filling than would be needed if it was left for longer.

Seeing your dentist regularly is an important part of any oral health regime, so to make an appointment at our practice, please call the Clock Tower Dental Clinic on 01372 720136.