Which Pumpkin Spice Latte is best for your oral (and overall) health?

In 2019, it seems that there is only one true sign that it’s fall. Autumn is no longer signaled through bright foliage or plaid coats (too early and too hot, respectively). No, my friends, the punxsutawney phil of fall is none other than the Pumpkin Spice Latte, a frothy beverage that pops up in your local coffee shop to alert you that a new season has begun. But how does this tasty treat affect your teeth and overall oral health?

PSL breakdown across coffee shops

Sugar is like kryptonite to our pearly whites, so we reviewed the most popular PSL destinations to discover which one would be kindest to our teeth. A grande PSL from Starbucks, home of the original, contains 340 calories with 50 grams of sugar, while Dunkin Donuts, a worthy competitor, serves a medium PSL that is 340 calories with 52 grams of sugar. While both of these chains offer a similar beverage in terms of sugar content, there is significantly less in Peet’s Coffee’s PSL, which contains 240 calories with 22 grams of sugar. If you’re wondering, is that a lot of sugar?, we’re a little afraid to report what’s coming next. The American Heart Association recommends a daily average of 37.5g for men and 25g for women, making the PSL a tasty but ultimately very sugary drink.

While we’re all entitled to picking our preferred PSL location and enjoying this $6 indulgence, it’s important to be aware of its sugar content when thinking about healthy, strong teeth. A PSL is acidic (because, ya know, the coffee), and with the additional high sugar content, can harm the outer surface of tooth enamel and eventually result in tooth decay. But hey, we’re not trying to ruin one of your favorite fall drinks! We recommend indulging every so often, or making one at home where you can enjoy the health benefits of the pumpkin and keep the sugar content low.

Want a healthier alternative? Make your own PSL

Making your own PSL is a lot easier than you’d think, and is better for your overall oral health. Our favorite recipe calls for just 1 tablespoon of sugar, which is 14.3g (or, you could use a tablespoon of honey, which has 5g) and 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract, which has no added sugars. For the pumpkin, use a can of store-bought pumpkin puree, or, if you’re channeling Martha Stewart, pick up a pumpkin and make a homemade puree!

While you already know pumpkins are the world’s best porch decoration, were you aware that they’re a superfood in terms of oral health? The vitamin A helps keep your gums healthy, and vitamin C wards off infection and irritants that could cause inflammation. The zinc found in pumpkin helps sustain and maintain healthy gums, too.[1] If you do make your PSL with homemade puree, rinse the pumpkin seeds, add a little salt, and roast them in the oven for a snack! Pumpkin seeds are packed with magnesium and iron, which help strengthen teeth and keep your gums healthy.

Read our recipe below. Happy PSL season!

quip’s Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe

  • 1/2 cup milk of choice

  • 1/2 cup of coffee

  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree, homemade or store-bought

  • 1 tablespoon of regular or brown sugar (or honey for a low-sugar option)

  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients into a saucepan on your stove top on medium heat, whisking everything together, without letting it boil. Serve in your favorite mug, add a little cinnamon, and enjoy.

1. 'The Best Vitamins & Minerals For Your Teeth', April 8, 2016, https://www.123dentist.com/best-vitamins-and-minerals-for-teeth/