Rethinking Our Relationship With Coffee

We may reach out for our daily caffeine ‘hit’, but coffee isn’t necessarily our friend!

Most of the staff and patients of Mike Allen’s Dental Practice probably drink coffee at least occasionally. For some people though, it is almost a ritual and to start the day without one might seem next to impossible. Coffee has been around for a very long time and largely is thought to be OK, or even positive, for our health as long as we don’t drink it to excess.

Even taking this into account, we should still stop and consider whether our regular coffee habit  may not be that great for our teeth. That might seem a bit harsh, but here is our reasoning why.

Teeth staining

Whilst tea stains our teeth due to the tannin in it, coffee is a rick, dark beverage, especially when drunk in the form of espressos etc. These stronger forms of coffee can certainly stain our teeth if we drink them very regularly. Dark and discoloured teeth are not harmful in themselves, but they don’t look very nice and most of us would prefer to have our teeth white, particularly for when we smile.

Brushing your teeth obviously helps to remove some of the staining, but if you drink your coffee after your morning brush, there is plenty of time for staining to take effect before you brush them again. A regular ‘scale and polish’ with our dental hygienist will also help to remove some surface staining but where this is not sufficient, you may wish to consider our non invasive teeth whitening procedure.


If you predominantly drink your coffee at home, you are in control of the amount of sugar that you use. The number of coffee chain shops in towns and cities across the country, however, indicates that most of us are drinking them there. This creates a particular problem when we opt to drink the more ‘speciality’ coffees rather than, say, espresso or americanos where we can add our own sugar. Some chain speciality drinks include syrups and creams on top of the large quantities of sugar in them. Some of these types of drink at one popular store have been found to contain between three and four tablespoons (yes, tablespoons, not teaspoons!) of sugar per cup. That is a phenomenal amount of sugar that is going to stick to your teeth and gums throughout the day.

This is not going to be a major problem if you have one of these as a treat every now and then, although lower or no sugar is obviously better. The real problem lies in those that drink them on a daily basis. If you do that, you are going to be at a much higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease than those who don’t.

Regular check ups at our Burton practice, combined with good home cleaning will help to keep this risk down, but the risk is still there and the only way to reduce it further is to cut down on those high sugar drinks.

Teeth grinding

Caffeine is often used as a quick energy boost to help us through the day. It can be useful at times where we need to stay awake a little longer than we should and some people enjoy the ‘buzz’ from the caffeine. Like many things though, it should be taken in moderation. Some of the side effects of caffeine can be concerning. These include increased anxiety, insomnia and high blood pressure amongst others. Although none of these are good, it is the increased anxiety that is likely to increase the risk of problems and the need for dental treatment.

One common side effect of anxiety is that we sometimes grind our teeth or clench our jaws together. This can lead to problems such as TMJ (a jaw joint disorder) and broken or worn teeth due to bruxism (teeth grinding). Where this is done on a regular basis, patients are likely to find that their teeth are weakened and may even break under particular stress.

Whilst we can usually restore teeth affected in this way, it is best if this doesn’t need to be done until the habit is broken. Fillings and crowns are strong, but are not immune to damage caused by severe grinding of teeth over a period of time.

We hope that this does not perturb our patients too much and the occasional coffee will not cause too much harm. But if you do drink coffee regularly, especially at a coffee shop, it is worth stopping and thinking about the potential harm to your teeth. Perhaps limit your coffee intake overall and choose a lower sugar one when you do.

To book an appointment for a check up, or to find out more about our teeth whitening treatment, please call Mike Allen’s Dental Practice today on 01283 845345.