Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Their Effect on Teeth
Ah, autumn … It’s that special time of year when trees become beautiful mosaics of orange and yellow, where we take the time to revel in back yard bonfires and scary movies; and women nation-wide don their yoga-pants and Uggs to hunt down and devour their favorite seasonal treat: The Pumpkin Spice Latte.
I’m not going to argue that this magnificent drink of the Gods is anything other than a lip-smacking, caffeine-packed, sugary cup of delicious liquid bliss; because that would be a lie. However, as I stand in Starbucks, watching a horde of twenty-something girls waiting to have their name called (one of which I am SURE will be “Becky”) with the same quiet-intensity of a lioness stalking a fat and juicy gazelle, I have to wonder … What is this pumpkin-flavored potion doing to our health?
It should come as no surprise to you that it’s not exactly the drink of choice for people minding their waist-line. Nothing that’s healthy for you could possibly taste THAT good (for example: any salad).
Heck, you can probably feel your Lululemons growing tighter with each passing sip; however, Pumpkin Spice Lattes also play havoc on your teeth and gums. In this article, we will highlight the main smile-destroying components of Pumpkin Spice Lattes that should make you hesitate at your local coffee shop this fall … [WARNING: Anyone who wishes to continue their lives in blissful ignorance should stop reading right now. I’m looking at YOU Becky.]
According to the Food Research Institute, caffeine alone can cause damage to your smile. It wears down enamel (the protective coating of the teeth) causing cavities, discoloration, foul breath, and painful inflammation. These side-effects are exacerbated by the stimulating nature of caffeine, which can cause you to clench your teeth; leading to an unnecessary amount of stress on the entire jawbone.
2) Artificial Food Coloring:
Although it is not often listed in the official list of ingredients, several of the items that are contained in lattes do contain artificial food coloring agents. Not only have many of these dyes shown to be cancer-causing, but they also stain the teeth the color of the dye. In the case of pumpkin drinks, that would be a lovely shade of yellowish-orange. Sexy.
Calm down … When I say “acid” I am referring to neither the kind that the mob uses to make witness’s disappear, nor the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas variety. I mean that Pumpkin Spice Lattes are, by their nature, an acidic drink. Acidic drinks dissolve the enamel of teeth. With the enamel gone, teeth are very porous; so they essentially become sponges for disease-causing bacteria and food-dye. This means even more decay and discoloration.
A Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks contains around 50 grams of sugar. Now, before you go Googling, “How much sugar is too much sugar?” thereby causing you to throw out all of your candy in a fit of teary eyed depression and rage; just trust me when I say that 50 grams of it in one drink is too much. This is a problem because sugar is the worst thing you can put in your mouth that doesn’t come with a detonator and a booklet about the safe handling of Uranium-235. Most oral disease (periodontitis, gingivitis, halitosis, etc.) is directly caused by eating too much sugar because it is food for bacteria. It is the digestion of sugar by the mouths bacteria that causes: cavities, bad breath, tooth/bone loss, pain, inflammation, and the panic-inducing text messages your mother sends you at 10pm. Wait, actually, I think it’s Chardonnay that causes that last one … But still!
5) “Natural” Flavors:
This last item on the list gets an honorable mention only because it is so damned cryptic. Speaking legally, food companies do not need to go into many details regarding what they consider “natural” … Which leaves A LOT of room for interpretation. For example, I had a college roommate who insisted that magic mushrooms couldn’t possibly be bad for you because it “comes from the earth, man.” As a rule, I generally do not trust health advice from someone who seems to be majoring in hacky sack. I now amend that decree to include food products that won’t tell me what “natural” means. So, use your best judgement.
Of course, moderation is the key. So, if you just can’t fight the urge to slam a delicious pumpkin concoction this autumn, I recommend doing so only every once in a while; and treat Pumpkin Spice Lattes like what they are … A treat. If you are concerned about your Pumpkin Spice in-take, we recommend incorporating a nutritional supplement to combat its effects, and keeping regular appointments with you dentist.