It’s Fall! So. Pumpkin Spice Everything…
But is that Pumpkin Spice Latte Good for Your Teeth?
It’s finally Fall. Somewhat cooler weather, Halloween, Thanksgiving…and the arrival pumpkin spiced everything. With Fall comes the champion of all things pumpkin spiced…the pumpkin spice latte, whose annual arrival is treated as a singular event, a marking of the changing season as inevitable and reliable as the equinox itself.
But what is the impact of this seasonal ritual? Is it good or bad for your oral health? The short answer is that it’s bad. But it’s not all bad, and the good and the bad of it are instructive of different factors to keep in mind as you make your daily food choices.
So what’s good about this confectionary beverage? There are several ingredients that may be protective to your oral health. First, it starts with coffee, which has been shown to be very protective of your oral health. Coffee has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can protect against gum disease. Coffee is associated with a protective effect against cavities–if consumed without sugar. Even with milk there’s still a slight protective effect, which is good, because milk provides a strong defense against the staining that otherwise comes with coffee consumption.
Another good aspect of pumpkin spice lattes is the spices. Many of the spices in the mix have been shown to have a protective effect for your oral health. Cinnamon is the spice used most in the mix, and its anti-inflammatory properties can provide protection against gum disease. It also includes essential oils that can impair the activity of oral bacteria that cause cavities. Ginger also has the ability to reduce inflammation and impair oral bacteria. Nutmeg has also been shown to prevent cavities.
With all those protective elements, you’d surely think that a pumpkin spice latte must be good for your oral health. Unfortunately, all those benefits are overwhelmed by the massive amounts of sugar in the drink. A 16-ounce pumpkin spice latte contains 50 grams of sugar. That’s over 12 teaspoons of sugar! Twice the recommended daily sugar consumption! Sugar tastes great, but it also fuels the action of oral bacteria. When oral bacteria can get sugar, they can grow, spread, and excrete acid on your teeth, which robs them of minerals and begins forming cavities.
The dangers of sugar to your teeth are increased because of the way you consume it, too. Few people chug their pumpkin spice latte. No, it’s the sort of drink you love to sip and savor. And that means that you’re giving a slow, steady supply of food to your oral bacteria, which means they can turn it into acid over a long period of time. This means they’ll produce more acid and do more damage to your teeth over time, increasing the risk of cavity formation.
Protect Your Teeth from Pumpkin Spice Everything
Pumpkin spice lattes are not the only danger to your teeth packaged in a delicious treat. Most pumpkin spice products you’ll see over the season are packed with sugar. The worst of these are the ones that will stick to your teeth or that you consume slowly over time.
To avoid damage from these treats, the best thing to do is to make them occasional, not daily, treats. Enjoy a few to help get the spirit of the season. Rinse your mouth with water after consumption to remove residues and neutralize the acid. But remember that brushing teeth too soon after eating or drinking can cause damage to your teeth.
You can also try to find options that have little or no sugar. For example, you can get a latte with no sugar, then add sugar and spices to your taste. You’ll find that you can enjoy it with much less than the 12 teaspoons in the pumpkin spice latte.