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coffee_teethLook at any list of teeth-wrecking habits, and you’re apt to find coffee drinking among them (here, for instance), mainly due to its power to stain. Some claim it even contributes to gum disease (such as here and here). And that may be true for those who drink coffee blisteringly hot, which may cause some gum damage and pave the way for further perio problems.

However, recent research published in the Journal of Periodontology suggests that when it comes to periodontal health, coffee may actually have some benefit. Most likely, this comes courtesy of its being rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory factors.

Given the beneficial role of such factors in periodontal disease, we explored whether coffee intake is associated with periodontal disease in adult men.

What they found was a “small but significant” improvement in terms of bone loss – a hallmark of advanced periodontal disease – and zero indication of harm. Their conclusion?

Coffee consumption may be protective against periodontal bone loss in adult men.

An earlier analysis by the same authors – presented last year at the annual meeting of the American Association for Dental Research – suggests that coffee may also reduce gingival bleeding.

Pocket depth was the only aspect evaluated that didn’t seem to be affected by coffee consumption. This means there are still ideal colonizing conditions for perio pathogens: They love the dark, moist, low-oxygen space that pocketing around the teeth provides. Intensive hygiene – at the dentist and at home – is required to shrink those pockets and control bacteria.

Of course, ramped up home care – with the use of tools like oral irrigators (e.g., WaterPik) and interproximal or “proxy” brushes in addition to regular brushing and flossing – will also do more than any coffee guzzling can ever do to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Learn more: What science has to say about some other health benefits and risks of coffee.

Image by Brandon Heyer, via Flickr

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