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How Drinking Coffee May Prevent Cavities

Cup of coffee surrounded by beans

Coffee has made its way into many people’s hearts (and stomachs!) as one of the most satisfying drinks that we run on. But for many people, who on average consume about two cups of coffee a day, this delicious and bitter drink has been heavily contributed to numerous oral health problems, including discoloration and even tooth decay. The acidity and tannins present within coffee are a part of why many dentists discourage heavy coffee consumption. Another aspect to consider is added sugars and creamers that lighten up this dark brew and make it even more harmful to our teeth. However, there’s some great news for us caffeine lovers! Drinking coffee can be good for your teeth.

The Obscure Benefits of Coffee – Down to A Science!

When it comes to coffee, the truth of the matter comes down to many sugary additives that people add to their drinks. Sugar and creamers are often the main causes of tooth decay over time because sugar feeds the bacteria in our mouths, inadvertently causing plaque and tartar to accumulate. These additives take away many of the benefits that coffee brings to the table because coffee as a standalone drink has some inherent benefits that aren’t truly recognized at the surface. New research has found that the chemical compounds in coffee are made up of anti-bacterial properties through a component called trigonelline.

To obscure this definition for you, trigonelline is a bitter alkaloid that provides coffee with aromatic and bitter compounds that are strangely enticing to the nose and taste buds. The strong, highly-quality beans, the aromatic effects of coffee will contain higher concentrations of trigonelline than those considered generic or the store brand. This substance, when brewed, will turn into two compounds called pyridines and nicotinic acid, which contribute to the enzyme reactions of trigonelline. The brewing process brings out our recommended doses of niacin into our diets. But how does this component contribute to our oral health?

Trigonelline isn’t just an aromatic effect – it is the component that contains those anti-bacterial properties that benefit our teeth! According to a study from the Journal of Conservative Dentistry, trigonelline prevents bacteria strains from adhering to the tooth’s surface. It has been shown to help prevent the onset of cavities and gum disease by extension. Throughout the study, researchers looking into the effects of coffee found that:

  • Instant coffee works the best at preventing bacteria because of its higher coffee’s trigonelline levels.

  • Ground coffee has the least amount of defense against cavities.

  • Both caffeinated and decaffeinated versions don’t have any noticeable effects.

Drinking Your Coffee Responsibly For Your Teeth

To get the most from your morning cup, we recommend having at least one cup of coffee a day to not only limit the risk of discoloration but also gain the benefits from trigonelline. For more information about caring for your oral health, it’s important to schedule that yearly checkup to make sure your teeth are clean and healthy.

Dr. Karmen Massih Inspired by orthodontics at the age of 10, Dr. Karmen Massih earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine at UCLA's School of Dentistry. After earning her certificates in orthodontics at the University of Pittsburgh, she returned to her hometown of Glendale, CA, to begin Massih Orthodontics, a practice dedicated to transforming smiles for people of all ages.