Patients of Our General Dentistry Office Want to Know the Truth About Coffee

Many of our general dentistry patients want to know if drinking coffee is good or bad for their teeth.  Until now, this has all been speculative and based on opinion more than scientific research.  As a dentist, we know that if coffee is drunk with cream and sugar it can create an additional cavity risk when teeth aren’t brushed right away.  The same holds true with any sugary drink like juice or soda.

The question is what about coffee in general?  Researchers at the University of Boston wanted to find out the answer and conducted a study in order to do so.  It was recently published in the Journal of Periodontology with the lead author Raul Garcia, D.M.D., coming to the conclusion that coffee is indeed good for the health of your teeth and gums though further studies should be conducted.

In order to come to this conclusion, they reviewed data that was collected by the Department of Veteran Affairs in Boston over the course of thirty years. They observed a group of over one thousand men and collected their dental exams along with food intake surveys in order to understand more about long-term oral health.  This provided a depth of information that researchers could use in order to determine the health effects of coffee on the teeth and gums. As a provider of general dentistry services, we make recommendations about what foods are good and bad for teeth so the results of this survey were of interest to us.

It turns out that men who drank at least one cup of coffee a day had fewer teeth with bone loss than those who didn’t drink coffee.  This led researchers to conclude that coffee was good for gum health.  The reason being that bone loss is a common sign of gum disease, and the absence of it indicated the absence of gum disease as well.  To make sense of this, it is important to understand how gum disease works.  The disease typically starts because of bacteria attacking the gums, making them swell as a result.  If bacteria is removed promptly, the symptoms will go away, and the gums will heal themselves.  If, however, it remains untreated the disease will get worst and the gums will start to recede, creating pockets in the gum tissue.  Bacteria can gather in these pockets and start to attack the exposed tooth and root system which can lead to bone loss and eventually tooth loss.

The caffeine inside of coffee is an anti-inflammatory.  Researchers believe that by drinking coffee, these men made it difficult for their body to make gums swell which would have stopped the disease in its tracks or at minimum slowed its growth.  This is a logical conclusion, but we would like to see further data on how caffeine can impact oral health in other demographics as well.  In the meantime, in our general dentistry practice we recommend that patients continue drinking coffee if they enjoy it but be sure to brush their teeth afterwards. 

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