Caffeine – Dental friend or (tooth) foe?

Moderate amounts of caffeine are considered safe for you to consume, but large amounts of drinks and foods that contain caffeine may cause problems, including, believe it or not – damage to your teeth.

Different coloured cups of coffee

Moderate amounts of caffeine are considered safe for you to consume, but large amounts of drinks and foods that contain caffeine may cause damage to your teeth.

The Food Research Institute, creator of “Food Safety 1995,” reports that the amount of caffeine you consume can affect the health and appearance of your teeth – I’m not sure how much practical evidence this is based on, but we should perhaps stay mindful of caffeine as a drug. Knowing these effects can help you restrict how much caffeine you consume each day.

Drinks that contain caffeine can potentially leave stains behind on your teeth

Drinks that contain caffeine can leave stains behind on your teeth, report Donna J. Phinney and Judy H. Halstead, authors of “Delmar’s Dental Assisting: A Comprehensive Approach.” Consuming coffee, tea and soda in large quantities can cause your teeth to yellow or cause unsightly brown stains to occur between teeth as well as on the surface.

Cutting down on the amount of caffeine you consume can help prevent further staining and damage to your teeth. It is also recommended that you drink coffee, tea and soda out of a straw to minimize how much of the drinks come into contact with your teeth.

Studies show that i makes sense to avoid richly coloured foods and drinks immediately after tooth whitening procedures.

Does caffeine cause enamel damage?

“The enamel on your teeth is what helps keep your teeth strong and healthy. As enamel wears off, your teeth are vulnerable to damage and disease, notes the Food Research Institute. It is claimed that the consumption of caffeine is related to the degradation of the enamel on your teeth.

Reducing how much caffeine you drink each day can help protect the enamel that remains on the surface of your teeth so you can help avoid cavities and dental disease.”

I believe that there may be considerably worse, mind you, I’ve seen posts indicating that it’s so bad for you, that you should only drink coffee through a straw … not sure that I’d go that far. In general, acidity is determined using the pH scale, which specifies how basic or acidic a water based solution is.

The scale ranges from 0 to 14. Any solution registering from 0 to 7 on the scale is considered acidic, whereas a solution registering from 7 to 14 is considered basic – coffee comes in as not that acidic, around 5 or so. Certainly not the most acidic drink we have.

Teeth Clenching

“Large intakes of caffeine are associated with stress and an inability to sleep well, reports Stephen Cherniske, author of “Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug.”

Consuming caffeine in the hours before bedtime can cause you to clench your teeth while you sleep. Teeth clenching can lead to jaw pain as well as pain in your teeth. Avoiding caffeine in the four hours before bed as well as limiting your consumption throughout the day can help reduce your stress level and alleviate teeth clenching during the night. Your dentist can also recommend devices that can keep you from clenching your teeth while you sleep.

I’m a little concerned by some questionable comments that follow proven ones. The second comment doesn’t become correct through default.

I’m sure that it’s true that large intakes of caffein is associated with the inability to sleep well – in fact I think that it’s a well proven fact. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that consuming caffein before bedtime leads to clenching or grinding (bruxism) of the teeth despite the fact that it seems to make sense.

There are studies that indicate it could be a factor in awake tooth grinding however. Papers have addressed this phenomenon.

It is true that clenching and grinding may be associated with jaw joint pain (temporomandibular dysfunction or TMD) but is often an indirect relationship via chewing and jaw muscles.

Clearly excessive stress placed on the teeth can cause dental pain but whether this is a result of caffein consumption remains to be scientifically proven.Although there is strong evidence that clenching is a brain mediated rhythmic movement, there is no evidence that caffein affects this directly.

It should also be pointed out that night guards or grinding guards, made to protect the teeth against night-time grinding of the teeth, night bruxism (NB) should be made after reviewing the clinical, medical and social history. Tooth grinding may be seen in the presence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Some references dispute this, claiming it as a movement disorder.

Anecdotally I have seen the connection between OSA and NB over many years – if this is the case it is prudent to check for the possibility of OSA in those with NB. Studies have categorically shown (and I have seen this clinically) that a single arch night guard to protect the teeth against NB has the potential to aggravate OSA. So it is possible to worsen a disorder that causes what is being treated …

Take home – drink coffee if you wish, but be mindful of potential oral or dental issues.

Dr. Stephen Bray 2020

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