Millions of Americans rely on a morning cup of java to get their day started, but many people don’t realize the impact that even a single cup of coffee each day can have on their smile. It not only affects the appearance of teeth, but can also cause dental health problems if certain preventative actions aren’t taken.

How Does Coffee Affect Teeth?

The most common, and most noticeable, effect that coffee has on teeth is staining. It happens over time and eventually turns your pearly whites to a less than appealing shade of yellow. It also causes teeth to lose their natural luster. This is due to tannin, a reddish colored acid, that occurs naturally in coffee and other types of food and drink.

Many people use creamer, milk or sugar to flavor their coffee, which makes it more delicious but doesn’t do teeth any favors at all. In fact, these popular coffee additives make staining even more pronounced because they encourage the growth of bacteria. Oral bacteria can cause serious problems, such as plaque buildup, erosion of tooth enamel, brittle teeth, and eventually cavities.

Do I Have to Give Up My Daily Coffee?

In short, no. There are steps that you can take to reduce the impact that coffee has on your teeth. Taking a few precautions every day will keep your teeth healthy and your smile bright. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid sipping coffee throughout the day. You can have too much of a good thing, so it’s smart to pay attention to how much coffee you’re drinking. Any drink, other than water, encourages bacteria to grow so dousing your teeth with coffee all day long is a bad idea.
  • Drink a few ounces of water after each cup of coffee. This rinses the tannin off your teeth quickly to reduce staining and bacteria growth.
  • Consider choosing iced coffee, at least occasionally. The effects aren’t any different, but you can drink iced coffee through a straw to minimize the amount of contact the drink has with your teeth.
  • Wait about half an hour after drinking coffee to brush your teeth. This may seem counterproductive, but the acid in coffee can actually cause more staining and damage to tooth enamel if you brush right after it comes into contact with teeth. Instead, wait about 30 minutes and rinse well with water before brushing.
  • Eat your fruits and veggies. If you find yourself in a situation where brushing after coffee isn’t an option, a coarse textured fruit or vegetable, such as an apple, carrot, or piece of celery, will help to clean the acid from your teeth.
  • Choose a whitening toothpaste. There are many options available so it’s a good idea to talk to your dentist about which toothpaste is best for you.
  • See your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. A thorough exam will catch any problems early and professional cleanings remove coffee stains more effectively than brushing at home.

Interested in more tips on how to keep enjoying your morning coffee without damaging your teeth? Contact the office of Dr. Larry D. Molenda, D.D.S., a San Marcos dentist, for more information.