For Better Oral Health, Reach for the Coffeepot?

Research has long shown many types of tea have a positive effect on oral health. If the astringency of tea isn’t your thing, drinking black coffee may confer a similar effect.

Coffee and tea are two of the most frequently consumed beverages worldwide. While dental health experts caution that drinking liquids other than water throughout the day can sometimes do damage to your teeth, unsweetened tea has been found to be different. While most studies have focused on green tea, researchers from the University of Illinois found that black tea also confers this protective effect.

But what about coffee? As one of the most popular beverages drunk every day, it is important to know whether it has a positive or negative effect on oral health. To determine this, a study published in the Journal of Conservative Dentistry surveyed a random sample of 1000 people who consumed only coffee as a beverage and visited the outpatient department of KLE Society’s Institute of Dental Sciences. A second 1000-member group who drank various other beverages was surveyed as the control. The patients who drank coffee were asked how much they drank, whether they drank it with milk or sugar, as well as their dental history.

So why might scientists suspect coffee to confer a protective effect against caries? Well, both coffee and tea contain high levels of antioxidants, which have been found to decrease gingival inflammation, a prominent risk factor for caries. Antioxidants were the health craze of the early 2000s, but many (such as polyphenols) are metabolized to inactive compounds in the body, and do not decrease the adhesion ability of S. mutans or other cariogenic bacteria.

The researchers found good news for black coffee lovers! People who drank coffee as opposed to other beverages experienced a lower Decayed/Missing/Filled Surface score, especially when no sugar was added, and a marginal improvement when the coffee was taken black.

Research conducted by other universities has implicated trigonelline, a component of coffee’s aroma, in assisting this effect. In vitro studies showed this chemical had a high level of inhibitory effect on the ability of S. mutans to adhere to enamel. At the end of the day, coffee isn’t a miracle cure, nor is it significantly harmful. Drinking it may confer a slight benefit, so patients may be happy to know they can feel good about reaching for a nice cup of black coffee if they need something to drink throughout the day.

Sources:
Anila Namboodiripad, P., & Kori, S. (2009). Can coffee prevent caries? Journal of Conservative Dentistry : JCD, 12(1), 17–21. http://doi.org/10.4103/0972-0707.53336

American Society For Microbiology. (2001, May 24). Tea Fights Cavities, Reduces Plaque. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010523072047.htm

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