At Midway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we see numerous patients every week who have tooth decay, gum problems, sensitive teeth, enamel damage, and cosmetic dental concerns. Many of our patients frequently ask what steps they can take to protect their teeth and enhance their oral health. In our practice, we believe that a healthy mouth begins at home and place special emphasis on lifestyle changes that can prevent or lessen the severity of dental issues. We have observed that sugary drinks are one of the most common causes of the cavities, enamel erosion, and cosmetic concerns that we treat in our office. Sodas, sports drinks, and iced tea can have especially damaging effects.
Let’s examine just how harmful these sugary drinks can be for oral health
Soda: Carbonation and Cavities
While any sugary drink has the potential to damage teeth, sodas are especially dangerous to the mouth because of their acidic content. On the pH scale, water is classified as neutral and has a pH of seven. Most sodas have a pH of two or three, meaning that they are highly acidic. In fact, battery acid itself, which has a pH of one, is only slightly more acidic than soda. The particular danger of soda lies in its combination of sugar with carbonation. The sugar in soda is a refined sugar and is classified as a simple carbohydrate. After ingestion, these carbohydrates remain on the teeth. There, they combine with bacteria in the mouth to form plaque and create an acidic environment that weakens teeth. However, soda is especially dangerous because it not only contains sugar but also has additional acid due to the carbonation itself. Any carbonated drink, including sparkling water and sugar-free soda, changes the pH of the mouth and makes it more acidic.
Drinking just one can of any carbonated beverage leads to what is known as an “acid attack” on the mouth. This attack begins as little as two minutes after the first sip and can last for up to twenty minutes. Having an acidic environment in the mouth slowly eats away at the tooth structure, weakening or even destroying enamel and leading to decay. Teeth which have enamel loss or decay will be more sensitive to hot and cold foods. They may also become discolored, gray, or translucent, and these cosmetic concerns can be very difficult to fix. While some advanced dentistry techniques can help to restore small amounts of lost enamel, preventing enamel loss in the first place is much healthier. In particular, it is best to consume a soda in one sitting rather than sipping it throughout the day. This shortens acid attacks. After drinking soda, rinse the mouth with water or xylitol to restore a neutral pH.
Sports Drinks: Citric Acid Damages Oral Health
Sports drinks, including energy drinks, are even worse than soda for oral health. These sugary drinks often come in larger cans and serving sizes than regular sodas and have a much higher sugar content. As with sodas, even diet or sugar-free sports drinks are harmful for dental health.
Energy drinks and sports drinks often contain additional additives not found in regular sodas, and these additives can increase the acidic environment in the mouth even more than a soda would. For example, the majority of sports drinks contain citric acid or phosphoric acid, some of the most damaging acids for teeth. Studies have shown that these highly acidic sports drinks can start to destroy tooth enamel in just five days. Notably, citric acids are also found in citrus fruits, juices, and some flavored waters, so it is important to check ingredient labels. Due to the highly acidic nature of these ingredients, avoid brushing teeth for at least a half hour after consumption. Try to consume these beverages with a straw, and chew gum after having a sports drink in order to neutralize the acid. If possible, alternate sips of sports drinks or juices with sips of water to minimize potential damage.
Iced Tea: Cosmetic Concerns
Sweet iced tea is a Southern tradition. Here at Midway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry located in Alpharetta, Georgia, many of our patients drink it daily. Sweetened iced tea has all of the damaging properties of other sugary drinks. In addition to its sugar content, it is most often flavored with lemon juice, a source of citric acid. Even unsweetened tea is acidic when served with lemon or other fruit flavorings. In our practice, patients who drink tea regularly often present with significant staining to their teeth. While much of this staining can be removed through a professional teeth cleaning, staining from tea tends to build up quickly in between cleanings. Patients who drink tea often may therefore benefit from more frequent hygienist visits.
If you are seeing any of the signs, or habits listed above regularly occur, you may have a breakdown in your enamel or even cavities that have formed. The sooner we can catch tooth decay, the easier the treatment. When you book a new patient with us, you can rest assured you have nothing to worry about. We pride ourselves in top-notch service with a gentle touch and a smile.
Contact us today for a new patient exam and x-rays and get on the path to your best oral health!