It’s no secret there exists a strong link between the consumption of sugary and acidic drinks and tooth decay. Heavy consumption of sodas (even diet sodas!) has also been linked to other health complications including diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.
During the past generation, milk intakes have decreased while soda pop and 100% juice intakes have increased. From a morning latte wake-me-up to a late afternoon diet soda pick-me-up, sipping on sugary and acidic beverages has become a daily habit for a growing number of people, especially kids, teens and young adults. A steady consumption of soft drinks, sports drinks, coffees, teas and juices is one of the leading causes of tooth decay.
However, measures can be taken to prevent and reduce tooth decay. The conclusions of a recent study support contemporary daily dietary guidelines for children that include:
- Consuming two or more servings of dairy foods
- Limiting the intake of 100 percent juice to four to six ounces
- Restricting other sugared and acidic beverages to occasional use
This doesn’t mean a person should never drink soda, coffee, tea, sports drinks or energy drinks. In fact, drinking them in moderation may represent no harm at all. However, substituting sugary, acidic carbonated beverages for water or intake of caloric food could be problematic in the long run.
How sugary and acidic beverages attack your teeth
The sugar in beverages like soda or sports drinks combines with bacteria in your mouth to form acid, which attacks the teeth. Even diet or “sugar-free” soda contains its own acid, which also can damage teeth. Each attack lasts about 20 minutes and starts over with every sip you take.
These ongoing acid attacks weaken tooth enamel. Kids and teens are most susceptible to tooth decay because their tooth enamel is not fully developed.
You can avoid tooth decay and other health problems that arise from drinking too many sugary or acidic beverages. Limiting your intake, brushing and flossing twice a day and visiting your dentist regularly will reduce your risk of tooth decay and improve and/or maintain your oral health.
Stay hydrated the right way
Staying properly hydrated is critical to overall health – and some beverages are better suited for this than others. Most soft drinks, coffees and teas contain sugar and caffeine which can actually SPEED UP dehydration.
While drinking sports drinks may keep your body hydrated, the ones with sugar also can unfortunately cause cavities. In addition, non-cola sodas, lemonade and sports drinks can cause significant damage to your teeth enamel, which can lead to tooth decay.
Did you know lack of water is the number one trigger for daytime fatigue? So next time you feel tired at work or school, don’t reach for a caffeinated beverage, drink water. It’s good for your body and won’t damage your teeth like soda, coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
- Drink sugary and acidic beverages in moderation (no more than one 12 oz can of soda a day)
- Use a straw to keep the sugar away from your teeth
- Swish your mouth out with water after drinking to dilute the acid and sugar if brushing your teeth is not possible.
- Drink plenty of water (8 glasses a day)
- Sip for extended periods of time
- Drink sugary or acidic beverages shortly before bedtime
- Brush after meals – wait at least an hour after your last drink or meal before brushing
- Substitute soft drinks, sports drinks or fruit juice for a meal.
Other tips for maintaining a healthy smile:
- Chew sugarless gum
- Visit your dentist regularly
- Brush and floss daily
- Drink fluoridated water and use a fluoride toothpaste
- Read the labels for sugar content
1. Borrud, L., Ennus, C.W. & S. Mickle (1996). What we eat in America: USDA surveys food consumption changes. Food Review, 19, 14-19.
2. Guenther, P.M. (1986). Beverages in the diets of American teenagers. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 86, 493-499.
3. Cavadini, C., Siega-Riz, A.M. & B.M. Popkin (2000). US adolescent food intake trends from 1965-1996. Archives of Disease Childhood, 83, 18-24.
4. Marshall, T.A., Levy, S.M., Broffitt, B., Warren, J.J., Eichenberger-Gilmore, J.M., Burns, T.L. & P.J. Stumbo (2003). Dental caries and beverage consumption in young children. Pediatrics, 112, 184-191.
5. Bassiouny, M.A. & J. Yang (2005). Influence of drinking patterns of carbonated beverages on dental erosion. General Dentistry, 53, 205-210.