If you’re like many Americans, your day doesn’t start until you’ve had your first cup of coffee. Because you love your morning coffee, and we don’t want to start out on a negative note, here are some good things to note about coffee:

  • It may decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • It may decrease your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease
  • It may reduce your risk of developing type-2 diabetes

While the above positive effects are still somewhat speculative, there are a few things we know for certain about coffee, all of which have a negative impact on dental health:

  • It’s highly acidic
  • It can cause dry mouth
  • It will stain your teeth

The acid in coffee can erode the protective enamel on your teeth. Tooth enamel is not made of living cells, so once it’s gone, it’s not coming back. Enamel erosion can cause sensitivity to temperature, discoloration, cracks and chips, and increased susceptibility to decay and cavities.

Caffeine consumption can also cause dry mouth due to dehydration. As unpleasant as it may sound, saliva is our friend. Besides helping to digest food, saliva protects teeth by controlling a variety of bacteria and fungi in the mouth. A decrease in saliva production, due to even slight dehydration, can cause a sharp increase in tooth decay and periodontal disease.

The most obvious effect of coffee on teeth is the dark staining that occurs. Tooth enamel is filled with tiny pits and ridges that can trap food and beverages. Dark, acidic beverages like coffee can get into these nooks and crannies, quickly yellowing teeth.

The good news is that you can solve all of coffee’s negative effects with some easy, preventative measures:

  • If possible, drink your coffee black. Keeping your teeth immersed in the cavity-causing fats and sugars that come from cream and sugar is an invitation to tooth decay, and the staining effect of black coffee is not lessened with cream.
  • Drink your coffee and move on; don’t sip coffee throughout the day. The longer coffee stays in contact with your teeth, the more problems it’ll cause.
  • Floss and rinse your mouth after consuming coffee. The acid in coffee can temporarily soften tooth enamel, so brushing after coffee can do more harm than good. Flossing and rinsing is best.
  • Drink water after coffee. Rinsing washed away some of coffee’s acid, but only drinking water will help you rehydrate, counteracting coffee’s diuretic effects.

The most positive step a coffee drinker can take is to be certain to visit the dentist regularly. Your dentist will not only spot decay before it becomes a problem, they’ll be able to whiten your coffee-stained teeth, often through a routine cleaning. For badly stained teeth, your dentist has many whitening strategies and techniques that are safer and more effective than over-the-counter applications.

Your morning coffee ritual can be worry free, as long as you have a dental appointment ritual to go along with it.