For most of us, caffeine is a daily ritual, part of waking up in the morning, getting through the afternoon, and having a good time at night. Although heavy caffeine use can be a sign of sleep apnea, usually this isn’t a problem, and there is even some evidence suggesting that caffeine use is good for you.
But many sources of caffeine are bad for your teeth. Caffeinated sodas are highly acidic and usually contain high amounts of sugar. Energy drinks are even worse, often as sugary and typically more acidic, these drinks can seriously erode the enamel on your teeth.
Fortunately, there are some sources of caffeine that are less damaging to your teeth, and some that are even healthy for your teeth.
Energy gums were developed for the military, but they are growing in popularity. Basically, they are gums with caffeine in them. The good news: chewing gum can remove bacteria and food particles from your teeth. The bad news: Energy gums have sugar, so they’re not really good for your teeth.
Dark chocolate is different from the milk chocolate that used to be all we could get in the US. With more cacao and less milk and sugar, dark chocolate gives more of the benefits of chocolate and fewer of the downsides. The good news: among the many health benefits of chocolate is that it TMJ. The bad news: even dark chocolate typically has enough sugar to contribute to tooth decay.
Coffee is how most Americans get their morning caffeine, and, with the proliferation of Starbucks and its imitators, people are drinking more coffee than they used to. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, except that Starbucks drinks encourage people to drink coffee with much more sugar than they would likely put in by themselves. (No one is going to put 20 teaspoons of sugar in their coffee, but some Starbucks drinks contain the equivalent–80 g of sugar.) The good news: coffee can reduce your risk of gum disease, and if you make it with fluoridated tap water, it had fluoride to protect your teeth. The bad news: coffee can stain your teeth. But teeth whitening is very effective at removing coffee stains.
Black tea has been roasted to change the flavor, which also changes its chemical composition, giving it different properties than green tea. But it’s still protective of your mouth. The good news: Contains fluoride when made with fluoridated tap water, and it’s high in tannins that reduce the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars that feed oral bacteria. And it suppresses acid production by bacteria. The bad news: still stains your teeth.
Green tea is raw, dried tea. This preserves many of the natural benefits of tea. The good news: Fluoride. Plus, it contains many catechins that can suppress the acid production by bacteria, and can kill them in some situations. The bad news: might stain your teeth worse than black tea.
So the next time you feel like you need a caffeinated pick-me-up, don’t grab a soda (even diet sodas are terrible for your teeth) or an energy drink. Instead, brew yourself a nice cup of tea (or pour it iced from the fridge), and enjoy a zero-calorie caffeine boost that’s good for your teeth.
And if you’re looking for a Philadelphia dentist who can help protect your oral health, please call (610) 272-0828 for an appointment at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell.