Caffeine Zombie Cavities
Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
Sound a little famil’?:
Now that we’re barreling into the holiday season, it’s not hard to guzzle even more of the stuff – a quick, reliable buzz to help keep you shopping, cooking, traveling, visiting and attending to all the other activities we do so much more of at this time of year.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with coffee – nor, if you prefer, the occasional Red Bull or other energy drink. How you drink it, though, is another matter.
Remember the post we ran a while back which mentioned the “apples are bad for your teeth” spin put on a study showing that how we eat can affect dental health as much as what we eat? A couple years earlier, we’d noted as much, looking at the impact “grazing” can have on a person’s teeth:
A woman brought her twin boys to us for their dental care. One of the boys had excellent teeth while the other had rampant caries (cavities). Yet both ate the same diet, which included a muffin a breakfast each morning. How each boy ate it made all the difference: the one with no caries ate his muffin all at once, while the other saved his to nibble from throughout the day.
Same diet. Different eating behaviors. Different outcomes.
Muffins. Just the thing to go with coffee, right? And just the thing to bring us to a recent news item on the potential problems with sipping non-black coffee throughout the day:
“We found that the majority of the patients are spending many hours a day working at the computer and ‘nursing’ either lattes or coffee with milk,” says [Seattle dentist Heidi] Hackett. “The constant exposure to the lactose or milk sugar is giving the bacteria in the mouth a flood of raw fuel or ‘food’ to metabolize.”
According to Hackett, the type of bacteria most responsible for tooth decay is Streptococcus mutans, which metabolizes carbohydrates and sugars into acid. The acid then eats away at the tooth enamel until – voila! – a cavity is born.
Over the past five to seven years, Hackett says she’s seen a definite rise in tooth decay in people who haven’t had a high rate of cavities in the past. Now, though, the common denominator seems to be that they’re all sipping on lattes or other milk-laden beverages or snacking at their desks throughout the day.
But though it is a major culprit, it’s not just about the milk. You add sugar to your coffee? Flavoring? Chocolate? Sweet whipped cream on top?
You can make some pretty cariogenic coffee cocktails that way! (Cariogenic means cavity-causing.)
So if you like such drinks but dental work not so much, best drink them in moderation and in a single sitting. The more regularly you bathe your teeth in sugars, the higher your risk of decay.