Can Coffee Lead to Cavities? Insights from a Dentist

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The link between coffee drinking and dental health is still debated. Recent studies say coffee’s special properties can help prevent cavities, while others show it may stain teeth and wear down enamel. The effect on oral health depends on the kind of coffee, how often you drink it, and what you add to it like sugar and cream. Let’s dive in and learn more!

Coffee’s Potential Benefits to Teeth

Key Takeaways:

  • Coffee contains compounds that fight cavity-causing bacteria.
  • Black coffee can reduce tooth enamel bacteria by 40-98%.
  • Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have beneficial effects.
  • Roasting enhances coffee’s antioxidant properties.

Coffee serves purposes beyond just being a part of the morning routine. It’s made up of intricate compounds, including some that have antimicrobial properties1 that protect against teeth-damaging bacteria like streptococcus mutans.

Studies have indicated that drinking coffee, especially when taken black without any additives, can lessen the stickiness of S. mutans to tooth enamel by a range of 40-98%2.

The thought is that the antioxidant substances such as chlorogenic acid and caffeine are actively protecting the teeth.

A Smiling Man Drinking A Cup Of Coffee, Showing His Healthy Teeth
Coffee can help protect teeth

The helpful impacts are not confined to regular coffee. Research has revealed that decaffeinated coffee carries similar antibacterial properties.

This shows that caffeine isn’t the only beneficial compound in the equation3.

Additionally, the way the coffee beans are roasted appears to boost these favorable components, with roasted beans exhibiting the strongest antioxidant effects. Crazy.

Now, while coffee has these benefits, drinking several cups of coffee a day might cause problems like coffee stains or enamel erosion because of the acidic drink.

Coffee may also cause bad breath. So it’s wise to balance your coffee intake with professional cleaning and proper dental care.


Coffee’s Potential Harm to Teeth

Key Takeaways:

  • Coffee is linked to dental staining, erosion, and cavities.
  • Its acidic nature (pH around 5) can wear down tooth enamel.
  • Compounds like tannins in coffee can stain teeth; adding sugar and cream raises cavity risk.
  • Drinking 4 or more cups a day leads to more dental erosion and staining.
  • Daily consumption of sweetened coffee has been tied to higher tooth loss in women.

While your morning coffee may have some health benefits, it’s not all good news. Several studies have found a correlation between coffee consumption on a regular basis and increased dental staining, erosion, and cavities.

Coffee is acidic, with a pH of around 5, and can erode tooth enamel over time4. Compounds in coffee, like tannins, can stain teeth5.

Closeup Of Coffee-Stained Teeth
Coffee can also stain teeth and cause enamel erosion and cavities

Moreover, adding sugar and cream to coffee increases the risk of cavities by providing bacteria with added sugars to feed on.

The frequency of coffee consumption also plays a role. Heavy coffee drinkers, those consuming 4 or more cups a day, have been found to have increased dental erosion and staining6.

And sorry ladies, I thought it was 2024. It turns out that women who consumed one or more cups of sweetened coffee a day also showed higher tooth loss.


Expert Insight: A Dentist’s Perspective

To further understand this topic, I reached out to my cousin, Dr. Joseph P. Zolinski DDS, a dentist based in Michigan.

When asked if coffee was inherently bad for your teeth, he responded, “No links to black coffee and cavities but when you add sugar and flavored creamers, yes.”

This expert insight aligns with the research findings, reinforcing the idea that the additives in coffee play a significant role in its impact on oral health7.


The Final Verdict: Moderation is Key

The relationship between coffee and cavities is not black and white. It’s a complex interplay of factors such as the type of coffee, frequency of consumption, and the use of additives.

Black coffee, when consumed in moderation, may help prevent cavities due to its antimicrobial effects. However, frequent consumption, especially with additives like sugar and cream, correlates with increased erosion, staining, and caries risk.

While coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s crucial to remember the age-old wisdom: moderation is key.


Low-Acidity Coffee Recommendations

If you want to start drinking a less acidic coffee, Sumatran coffee is the way to go. These 3 brands offer excellent Sumatran roasts:

1st in Coffee – Sumatra Mandheling – $12

1st in coffee has earned a reputation for getting their hands on some of the highest quality beans available. Their Sumatra Mandheling is so incredibly good…and it’s only $12 for a bag.

Sumatra Mandheling Bag 1

Volcanica Coffee – Sumatra Gayo – $17

Volcanica Coffee’s Sumatra Gayo stands out for it’s smooth flavor and low acidity. Other offerings range from light to medium, dark, and even super dark.

Sumatra Gayo Coffee

Cooper’s Cask Sumatra Dark Roast – $17.95

Cooper’s Cask uses whiskey barrels to give their coffee a special taste. Their Sumatra Dark Roast is strong and smoky but doesn’t have the extra sour taste that some coffees have.

Coopers Cask Sumatran Coffee

In closing, life is short, enjoy coffee the way you want to. That said, too much sugar and sweetened creamer can escalate the rate of enamel erosion. But that’s what dentists are for, right?

Happy brewing!

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  1. https://hawaiifamilydental.com/news/how-coffee-affects-dental-health/ ↩ī¸Ž
  2. https://sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124095175000577 ↩ī¸Ž
  3. https://nature.com/articles/s41598-018-20789-0 ↩ī¸Ž
  4. https://bmcoralhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12903-022-02310-2 ↩ī¸Ž
  5. https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9582577 ↩ī¸Ž
  6. https://oraljournal.com/pdf/2023/vol9issue2/PartA/9-2-1-376.pdf ↩ī¸Ž
  7. https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848806 ↩ī¸Ž
Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
Kelsey brings over 20 years of hands-on experience in the coffee industry, having honed his craft as a professional barista in both Seattle and Santa Barbara. He is an accredited member of The Coffee Association of America and holds an active membership in The Baristas Guild. Beyond his practical experience, Kelsey is deeply committed to the academic study of coffee history and its cultural impact. Outside of his professional pursuits, he enjoys quality time with his family and shares his extensive knowledge of coffee through insightful articles on this blog.

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