Anyone who’s seen me as a patient will know I spend a lot of time questioning patients about their lifestyle, habits and diet. I find my patients are very aware that sweets and sugary treats are bad for their teeth, but few people are aware of the effect that coffee has on teeth.
Yes, coffee stains teeth, as does tea. It doesn’t matter if the tea is green tea or black tea, and whether it has milk in it as well. Red wine is another common culprit. If you’re doing a stint of take- home whitening, you might want to avoid anything that stains a white t- shirt, such as soy sauce, berries and tomatoes.
What most people don’t realise, however, is that the more serious impact of coffee on teeth is that it dries your mouth out. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it causes more of the water in your body to be passed out as urine. This means less water available in your mouth for saliva. Saliva is extremely important for protecting your teeth and gums from dental decay (dental caries) and gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis). Saliva helps to wash away food particles and plaque from your teeth. Importantly, saliva neutralises the acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth. It is these acids that cause damage to your teeth by taking the minerals, such as calcium, out of your teeth and making holes in the tooth structure. These holes can be plugged back up with fluoride, which is why dentists recommend fluoride toothpaste and community water fluoridation.
I’m not recommending cutting coffee and other sources of caffeine out of your diet. However I do advise that you limit caffeine sources to 1-2 servings per day. Cola drinks should be a rare treat and definitely not consumed daily. After drinking your favourite style of tea or coffee, make sure you have a glass of water afterwards to rehydrate.