We all have heard the old saying, “We are what we eat”, but did you know it is just as important for your teeth as it is your body? Your choice of drink has a big impact on your waistline as well as your dental health. Most of the focus regarding the consumption of sugary soft drinks, sport drinks, and fruit juices surrounds obesity and diabetes. It is important to realize that these same drinks can contribute to tooth decay and possibly dental pain if untreated.
The average American consumes over 50 gallons of soda and other sweetened drinks each year. Statistics show that almost 20 percent of all children under the age of 19 have untreated cavities. The sweetened soft drinks and the like are wreaking havoc on our dental health. They work by constantly washing your mouth with sugar and acid allowing for the perfect acidic environment and constant supply of sugar for the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria then produce more acids that lead to tooth decay by dissolving the enamel that protects our teeth. Sugar also dries your mouth out and makes you thirstier, causing you to drink much larger sized beverages to satisfy your thirst.
Worst Drinks for Your Dental Health
The most obvious of the bad drinks for you. This is probably not new information to anyone. Soft drinks are bad for you for two reasons. One is the sugar, but the other is the acidity. Carbonated drinks like Coke and Pepsi use phosphoric acid in their ingredients (Mountain Dew and Sprite use citric acid). The acid breaks down the enamel in our teeth. The enamel is the outer protective layer of our teeth and it also gives us an attractive, shiny smile.
These drinks include Gatorade, flavored water, as well as others. These drinks are not acidic like soda but these come with a double does of sugar. Most of these drinks are great for their intended purpose…recovery from activity. These drinks are
generally not used for their intended purpose of severe re hydration, they are consumed as a regular beverage. Over time, when too often consumed, they can easily stain your teeth and cause tooth decay.
Fruit and Energy Drinks
Fruit drinks, and beverages like red bull, also pose a threat to your pearly whites. These drinks are also damaging to your teeth and need to be used in moderation as well. Fruit drinks like Hawaiian Punch and Sunny Delight are nearly as acidic as Coca-Cola. Combine the acid levels with the sugars already in the ingredients and you have a recipe for catastrophe.
How to Minimize the Damage from These Beverages
-Brushing. Tooth brushing after every meal is the best way to decrease the chance of developing tooth cavities.
-Rinsing. Swish your mouth out with water after drinking these beverages can help decrease the amount of acid contacting the teeth.
-Chew Gum. Chewing sugar-free gum or xylitol gum will also help minimize the damage caused by these drinks by increasing saliva production.
-Drink at Mealtime. Drink sugary and acidic beverages with meals, and never before bedtime unless you plan to brush your teeth before heading to bed.
-Use a straw. This also helps decrease contact of these sugars and acids with the teeth.
-Other drinks that contribute to tooth decay (sugary, acidic, or both): dairy milk, soy milk, energy drinks, protein shakes, wine, beer, tea, coffee, smoothies, all fruit juices, some bottled waters.
Yes, we are what we eat! Be smart about what you choose for yourself and for your family. Many health issues can be circumvented by choosing healthier options and using your educated judgement to make the best choices. Use sweet drinks in moderation, and take care of your dental hygiene in between drinks. As always visit your dentist regularly for dental examinations and professional cleanings for better dental health.