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Judging the Starbucks per block ratio in certain parts of Los Angeles, we do not need to convince most people in this city to pick up a cup of coffee in the morning — or afternoon, or evening, or middle of the night, for that matter.

But java lovers everywhere have been getting a reason they never needed to brew up some dark roast: their teeth.

Los Angeles Coffee TeethThis may seem counterintuitive, because mostly people have come to think of coffee as the dental equivalent of soda, which it is, given the way some people like to drink it. Coffee, of course, also stains your smile like few other substances out there, and for better or worse, whiteness will always be associated with good teeth health.

But assuming you don’t dump half a jar of sugar into your pot each morning — or order up one of those frozen concoctions with the whipped cream and chocolate sauce they’re now passing off as coffee — your supposedly nasty habit may be scoring you points with the dentist.

That’s because a new study coming out of Brazil indicates that drinking coffee regularly may actually help your mouth fight off damaging plaque.

Pre-existing research has already suggested similar patterns, and this study in particular found that the polyphenols in the robusta coffee bean, grown in Brazil and Vietnam, prevents the buildup of bacteria film around teeth.

The testing was limited to just the robusta bean, and the exact mechanism by which this apparent health benefit occurs is still unclear. So more studies will have to be conducted before we can draw any broad conclusions, but the preliminary results in and of themselves seem promising.

As we’ve discussed before on the blog, Steptococcus mutans (aka plaque) is the arch nemesis of all dentists everywhere. These bacteria form layers of film around your teeth, eating the unprocessed food particles in your mouth, and letting off an acidic byproduct that wears down protective enamel, causing cavities.

Anything that disrupts that process, be it chewing gum or brushing, is good for your dental health.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should go slugging coffee by the pot, because there are other health risks to consider. Some coffee, moreover, is mildly acidic (4.5-6.0 pH), so drinking too much, especially with sugar, could have a deleterious effect on your mouth.

The best policy is to always drink water after you’re done with your cup, which will help prevent staining, and balance out any acidity.