Coffee, Cocoa and Tea: Not Just A Caffeine Boost But a Bacteria Destroyer

If you are like the 54% of Americans over the age of 18 who drink coffee every day, then this will be great news for you. Recent studies have shown that coffee, cocoa and tea have positive effects on your dental health, including preventing tooth decay. So the nice energy boost that coffee provides is good for your teeth as well as those sluggish early mornings.

Over the years, the effects of coffee, cocoa and tea have been discussed several times. There is no denying the fact that tea, and in particular green tea, has numerous health benefits. But now we can add cocoa and coffee to the list for your dental health too.

Coffee and dental health

Research has shown that drinking coffee may have one major benefit to your dental health: decreasing tooth decay.

Several studies have been done testing roasted coffee beans against the main bacteria that causes tooth decay, S. mutans. The coffee beans have shown to be antibacterial against S. mutans (meaning they fight against it). Plus, it goes a step further to show that coffee also interferes with the absorption of the bacteria to teeth. But also important to note is that while the coffee beans do not actually prevent the growth of S. mutans, it does reduce the amount of the bacteria that actually sticks to your teeth. Which is great news for all the coffee lovers – drink coffee and decrease tooth decay.

This research is based on four different types of coffee beans: roasted Arabica, unroasted (green) Arabica, roasted Robusta, and unroasted (green) Robusta. The results showed that while all the samples yielded positive results, the unroasted samples were significantly less active than the roasted beans in reducing the amount of bacteria sticking to the teeth. Most coffees are from roasted beans anyway.

While it is not entirely clear why coffee works so well at preventing decay, there are compounds in coffee that are very active in terms of dental health. They are trigonelline, caffeine and chlorogenic acid. It is very possible that the anti-adhesive effect is due to that these and other chemicals in the coffee complimenting and working together to ward off bacteria.

More about the effects of coffee here

Cocoa (chocolate) is good

According to a recent review, studies have shown that adding cocoa powder or chocolate to a hamster’s diet reduces their incidence of caries (decay). Also not surprising, cocoa powder or dark chocolate works better than chocolate with high sugar and low cocoa levels. So enjoy your dark chocolate, in moderation of course.

The reason why cocoa works so well has to do with the growth of bacteria on your teeth. The two main strains of bacteria that cause dental decay are Streptococcus sanguinis and Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans). Although the case is not entirely clear, cocoa polyphenols seem to inhibit the growth of one of these strains, Streptococcus sanguinis, but not the other strain, S. mutans.

Another big plus for cocoa is that it also reduces plaque formation by inhibiting the enzyme dextransucrase. This enzyme forms plaque extracellular polysaccharides from sucrose and contributes to decay in your teeth. In one study, a mouth-rinse made from the ground husk of cocoa beans was effective in reducing plaque scores in children.

Drink tea for healthy teeth

There is a hugely beneficial property to tea called tea polyphenols. When they hit your teeth, they are responsible for protecting your teeth from dental decay through their incredible anti-microbial action. While cocoa and coffee are mostly effective against allowing bacteria to stick to teeth, tea adds an additional benefit and actually inhibits the growth of several strains of Streptococcus. The polyphenols in tea also reduce the formation of plaque, the production of acidic compounds and the synthesis of glucan from sucrose. All very important in keeping teeth healthy. Also worth noting, commercial teas have been shown to inhibit salivary amylase activity, which means it significantly reduces decay formation from foods with starch.

Green tea, black tea and oolong tea (which is a tea that is somewhere in between the two in terms of fermentation time), have all been shown to be beneficial for oral health. Even though white tea has not been studied, it very likely has much of the same benefits as green tea. And due to its light color, it may also stain teeth less than green or black tea.

So, ultimately, if we needed another reason to indulge our cravings to drink coffee, cocoa and/or tea, this was it – it’s good for our teeth. The next time you want to curl up with a steaming cup of tea or coffee, just remember, besides being a nice caffeine source, they are also a source for fighting bacteria on your teeth.

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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