3 Ways your Morning Cup of Joe Ages your Smiles

Categories: Oral Health


For some, it is difficult to imagine surviving a day without a cup of coffee, much less smiling during it. Some people take their coffee seriously, so much so that in Saudi Arabia, a husband who does not provide his wife with enough coffee gives her legal standing for a divorce. However, coffee can carry with it certain risks, including to the teeth; indeed, regular consumption can make a person’s smile look significantly older.

There are at least three reasons why coffee can age a person’s smile.

Coffee and tooth grinding

A study in Finland has shown a direct connection between the consumption of coffee and bruxism, which is the grinding of teeth.

Tooth grinding has a number of consequences on overall health and particularly to oral health:

Wear on the teeth

As a person ages, wear on his or her adult teeth gradually causes them to get smaller over time. Grinding can hasten that process, causing a person’s smile to appear older.

Wear on the enamel and periodontal disease

Moreover, grinding wears on the enamel, which might lead to exposure of the tooth to periodontal disease. This can be fairly serious, as it can spread to the bone of the jaw. This can cause the jaw to appear less prominent, which to make the skin appear to sag, and can lead to wrinkles. The overall effect is a smile which appears aged.

Stress headaches

Bruxism can lead to tension headaches, which can cause a person to appear older, including his or her smile (if the pain allows them to smile at all, that is).

It should be observed that the Finnish study considered people who drink fairly large quantities of coffee, to the tune of eight cups per day. Nevertheless, this is something to consider for people who drink lots of coffee throughout the day.

Coffee and tooth discoloration

Adult teeth start out a gleaming white due in large part to enamel. Enamel is naturally white (though the tooth underneath is more of a yellow color), but is susceptible both the decay and to staining over time. Since stained teeth are often associated with age, anything that can stain the teeth will make a person’s smile appear older.

Coffee can contribute to the such staining. This is because, while dental enamel appears smooth and solid to the touch and to the eye, it actually has tiny pores whose size varies from person to person.

Coffee contains certain chemicals called tannins. These chemicals are natural dyes, and indeed are often used industrially to produce brown, grey, and yellow colors. These substances are small enough that they can get trapped in the pores of the enamel, and over time a yellowing in teeth may occur.


Staining may occur even if a person takes the coffee black. It is much more likely to happen if a person lightens and sweetens his or her coffee, due to harmful effects of sugar (or, more appropriately, “sugars” in the plural).

As was mentioned, the whiteness of teeth is caused by its enamel; the dentin underneath is actually far more yellow in color. If the enamel is weakened, it will become more and more transparent, allowing the yellow of the dentin underneath to show.

This is important, because the human mouth naturally contains certain types of bacteria, of which one is Streptoccocus mutans. S. mutans is nourished by compounds which chemists call sugars, and metabolizes these into lactic acid, which is harmful to enamel.

One of these “sugars” is a compound called sucrose, which is found (logically enough) in sugar. Another type is lactose, which is found in milk. Yet another is known as fructose. This is usually found in fruit, but is also a major component in high fructose corn syrup, which is often found in sweeteners.

Therefore, if a person adds milk and sugar to his or her coffee, the sucrose and lactose will help the bacteria produce more acid. A visit to a local coffeeshop for a latté with multiple pumps of sweetener does likewise. The acid wears on the enamel, causing the teeth to look yellowed (and therefore older).

Coffee and teeth

While coffee can contribute to an older-looking smile, there are things that be done to reduce or reverse these effects.

If a person notices tooth grinding and is a massive coffee drinker, one simple step – though admittedly easier said than done – would be to reduce consumption. If tooth grinding persists, a dentist will provide excellent advice on how to reduce it.

Likewise, it might be advisable to reduce the amount of milk and sugar in one’s coffee. If that cannot be done, rinsing with mouthwash, chewing sugar free gum with xylitol, and brushing will reduce bacteria and acid in the mouth.

Finally, coffee stains tend to be superficial and can be removed by teeth whitening techniques administered by a dentist.

Coffee – and especially large amounts of it – can age the smile, but this aging can be minimized or even reversed. An excellent first step would be to consult a dentist, who will recommend the best procedures for maintaining a healthy and youthful smile.


Protecting your oral health provides many benefits to your overall health, such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. It’s never too late to begin new habits and improve your oral health. For more information or schedule an appointment, call Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry at (831) 824-5111. We welcome patients of Scotts Valley, Los Gatos, and Santa Cruz.