The major downside of drinking tea and coffee has always been the unpleasant stains that are left behind on the teeth after drinking them for an extended period of time. We’ve all seen the caricature of the tea-obsessed lady with scarily yellowed teeth. But after all this time, could tea and coffee actually be good for your teeth?
Interestingly enough, yes. Tea, coffee, and cocoa all have very active ingredients that work to benefit your oral health. They still retain their staining capabilities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad for you.
Dental caries, or cavities, are formed when the bacteria that forms a layer of plaque on the surface of your teeth is left on there long enough for them to weaken and dissolve first the protective layer of enamel and then the more sensitive tooth bone underneath. Once they get in under the enamel, they have free reign to further spread and damage the teeth, which eventually leads to the creation of a hole, or cavity, in the tooth. Bacteria are fueled by sugars that are left in the mouth. They consume the sugars and produce an acidic byproduct, which is what actually dissolves away the tooth bone.
Drinking coffee acts as an inhibitor to plaque forming bacteria and actually prevents them from clinging onto the teeth as easily. By delaying the plaque accumulation process, this means, then, that the formation of tartar (hardened plaque) is delayed. Tartar, unlike plaque, is irremovable by toothbrushes and can only be scraped off by a dentist with a special tool that will not harm the tooth or gums. Tartar also plays a large role in staining teeth.
Teas go a step further. Drinking tea actually reduces the formation of plaque on your teeth. It stops the growth of some strains of bacteria right in their tracks entirely and even prevents them from eating the sugars left in your mouth at all. Your saliva naturally turns starches into sugars in your mouth, but drinking tea has shown to lessen that effect significantly, which results in less food for the bacteria.
Does this surprise you? If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Lakeway Center for Dentistry today.