If you like a strong cup of black coffee, and you used to think it is doing your teeth no favours. But new research suggests that drunk in moderation, coffee can actually stop tooth decay.Brazilian scientists have found that a certain type of coffee bean has an anti-bacterial property against bacteria which causes dental plaque.If it is drunk strong, black, without sugar, and in moderation, it could help keep teeth health.
Scientists at Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University tested extracted baby teeth with an extract from Coffea canephora, a type of bean that makes up 30 per cent of the world’s coffee. which is grown in Brazil and Vietnam.
They found that the coffee actively broke down bacterial biofilms which cause dental plaques, a major cause of tooth decay.
Lead researcher Andréa Antonio said: ‘Dental plaque is a classic complex biofilm and it’s the main culprit in tooth decay and gum disease.
‘We are always looking for natural compounds – food and drink, even – that can have a positive impact on dental health.’
Using milk teeth, donated by children, the team cultivated biofilms on tooth fragments using the bacteria in saliva samples.
When the fragments were exposed in solution to an extract of coffee beans, the bacteria were broken down.
The researchers think that polyphenol antioxidants in the coffee were probably responsible for the effect, but said more research is needed to establish a direct link.
Professor Antonio, whose paper is published today in the journal Letters in Applied Microbiology, warned that too much coffee can still be bad for teeth.
The researcher said:
‘Whilst this is an exciting result, we have to be careful to add that there are problems associated with excessive coffee consumption, including staining and the effects of acidity on tooth enamel.
‘And if you take a lot of sugar and cream in your coffee, any positive effects on dental health are probably going to be cancelled out.’
Eventually, the active chemicals could be extracted from coffee to be used in a mouthwash or toothpaste.