Without a doubt, one of the most prevalent dental problems is tooth decay 1. It commonly develops in both adults and children. One of the main reasons for the occurrence of the condition is poor oral hygiene (you can read our article on the importance of good oral hygiene for more information) and consumption of unhealthy foods and drinks. Knowing this we tend to believe that tooth decay can be prevented by changing our habits.
In this article, we will focus on what drinks can damage your teeth and cause tooth decay as well as how to prevent such a dental problem.
Which drinks affect your teeth the most?
Beverages that contain both sugar and acid have a double negative effect on your teeth. They not only weaken tooth enamel making it thinner but also make your teeth more prone to dental cavities, tooth decay and other oral diseases. In addition, sugar drinks can be harmful not only to your oral health but also to your overall health.
Some of the drinks that are rich in sugar and acid and may have a negative impact on your dental health include:
- Alcoholic drinks such as vodka, whiskey, beer, dry red and white wines as well as different kinds of cocktails;
- Caffeine drinks like coffee and tea. However, if you do not add sugar, milk or other additives to the coffee, the anticaries of roasted effect is minimized 2;
- Drinks that contain lactose - milk, milkshakes and other drinks with milk;
- Soft drinks such as soda, coca-cola zero, root beer, ginger ale, and so on;
- Different fruit juices - mango, grapefruit or orange juice;
- Sports drinks and energy drinks;
- Other drinks that claim to be "real fruit juices" and drinks with added sugar including juice pop and fruit punch.
It is important to note that drinking fluoridated water may also be not healthy for your teeth.
What are sugary drinks doing to your teeth?
Dentists are adamant that the consumption of sugary beverages and foods can lead to tooth decay, dental erosion and unhealthy mouth. However, it is not the sugar itself that causes damage to teeth. It is actually because sugar interacts with bacteria in your mouth and as a result, acids are formed. Sugar is a source of food and energy to bacteria you see and as they break it down, acids are produced. How does this happen? In case you treat yourself with a sugary drink every day and you do not brush your teeth regularly, do not floss and use mouthwash, plaque bacteria will form in your mouth and on your teeth. Interacting with food particles and drinks that contain a lot of carbohydrates, the plaque turns into acid. As a result, tiny holes are formed. Over time those small openings can get bigger and bigger until they develop into large holes and visible tooth decay. In addition, the buildup of plaque increases the risk of tooth erosion, gum disease and even can lead to loss of tooth.
Does drinking soda cause tooth decay?
The excessive consumption of soda can indeed damage your nice teeth and lead to cavities and tooth sensitivity. Actually, soft drinks are one of the major culprits of tooth decay.
For many people, sodas are the beverage of choice. And it's not only for adults but teens and children also have frequent access to acidic drinks. However, drinking soda all day long can lead to many dental issues.
First of all, soda, sports drinks and many other popular drinks can contain more than 12 teaspoons of sugar per serving. So when you have a glass of soda, that big amount of sugar immediately stick to your teeth surfaces. The bacteria that naturally live in your mouth interact with that sugar and produce acid. If you do not take proper oral care, the acid will dissolve your tooth's surface and create a cavity.
The other problem with soft drinks especially diet sodas is that they are rich in acids. As we mentioned, this ingredient can be harmful to your teeth as it can damage the outer layer of the tooth called enamel. In extreme cases, acids erode the protective enamel and expose the sensitive dentin underneath. The condition is called dental erosion. As your teeth continue to get weaker and thinner the edges can crack and lose their natural shape. According to the available research, diet soft drinks low on sugar do not lower tooth decay by any significant amount if at all 3
The claim that soft drinks with 0% sugar do not damage teeth has been quite common in recent years. Although they contain less or no sugar, these drinks are high in citric acids and that is exactly the problem. Most people are aware that consuming sweetened beverages can lead to tooth decay, but very few know that actually, acids are the biggest cause of tooth decay and dental erosion.
How to prevent tooth decay and dental erosion?
It is best if you do not drink sugar-sweetened beverages and replace them with water or vegetable juices. However, if you can't resist sweet treats at least try to limit them. It is also good to have a glass of water (or just rinse your mouth with water) after you drunk soda or eat something sweet. Drinking water will help for an adequate supply of saliva in your mouth and will wash the acids and food particles. In your saliva, there are minerals that can be used by your teeth to help repair damage, so it is important to stay hydrated. Another good way to increase saliva flow is by chewing sugarless gum.
It is said that the acid attacks from bacteria and plaque last around 20 minutes 4 so it is better to have sweet-tasting drinks over short periods of time. It means that it is preferable to drink a glass of coke at once instead of sipping it all day. Therefore, you can cut down on the times when your teeth are under attack.
It is not possible, and you do not need to restrict yourselves to all sweetened foods and beverages. Just make sure you do not consume them every day and in large quantities. In addition, to prevent tooth decay and maintain healthy teeth it is essential to brush your teeth at least twice a day for three minutes and clean the interdental spaces by flossing. Also, you should visit your dentist for regular exams and cleanings of dental plaque.
In conclusion, we can say that sugary foods and sweet drinks might be not so harmful if consumed in a reasonable manner so that you do not drink soda every day and every few minutes. Like most dental problems, tooth decay is also preventable. Among the most effective measures to prevent it are regular tooth brushing and flossing as well as regular dental exams, having a balanced diet and limiting acidic foods and sugar drinks. The earlier these measures are taken, the better for your dental health.