Could Coffee Prevent Tooth Decay and Help Fight Plaque?

General Health

coffeeIt’s common knowledge that drinking too much coffee can stain your teeth and possibly even damage them. But could this common knowledge be flawed? Rather, what does ‘too much’ really mean? A new study suggests moderate consumption of black coffee could protect your teeth from decay and actually help fight plaque.

Researchers with Federal University in Rio de Janeiro tested the effects of coffee on donated baby teeth. The scientists used an extract from Coffeea canephora, a bean that makes up about 30 percent of the world’s coffee.

“We are always looking for natural compounds – food and drink, even – that can have a positive impact on dental health,” said lead researcher Andrea Antonio.

Using the donated baby teeth, the researchers cultivated biofilms using bacteria in saliva samples. These biofilms cause dental plaque, a cause of tooth decay. When exposed to a solution of the coffee extract, the bacteria were broken down.

“Dental plaque is a classic complex biofilm and it’s the main culprit in tooth decay and gum disease,” explained Antonio. The researchers believe the coffee’s antioxidant compounds could be responsible for the benefits.

But, they advised caution. The coffee tested was black and strong, and it was applied in moderate amounts.

“Whilst this is an exciting result, we have to be careful to add that there are problems associated with excessive coffee consumption, including staining and the effects of acidity on tooth enamel,” said Antonio. “And if you take a lot of sugar and cream in your coffee, any positive effects on dental health are probably going to be cancelled out.”

This is far from the first study, which was published in the Letters in Applied Microbiology, to implicate coffee in boosting health. Earlier this year, a study published in the journal Diabetes Care identified both regular and decaffeinated coffee as having anti-diabetes benefits.

In that study, daily coffee drinkers saw their risk of diabetes drop when compared with those who abstain from java or only drink it on occasion. Those who drank three cups a day saw the risk drop to 79%, and those who drank six cups of coffee had a relative risk of only 67%.

Coffee is an ancient bean and beverage with numerous health benefits. But that doesn’t mean drinking some frothy, sweetened, fancy drink from your local coffee shop is good for you. If it’s the coffee itself that is healthy, best stick with something strong and black.