We bet you can guess between drinking soda and milk, which one puts you at risk for tooth decay and which one actually helps keep your teeth healthy and strong. But what about all the other beverages in between?
We are here to help you understand more about the beverages you are consuming and offer a few tips on how to keep your teeth healthy, even when indulging in surgery drinks.
Let’s start with the bad. The effect beverages have on your oral health depends on several factors, but is primarily determined by the overall acidity of the drink. Anything that measures 5.5 or less on the pH scale is considered acidic – the lower the number the worse. The acidity in these drinks softens tooth enamel, making teeth vulnerable to decay and cavities.
Sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, iced and sweet teas, and fruit juices all have high acid levels. Most of these drinks also contain sugar, which has the potential to be doubly damaging to teeth. Surprising to most, sparkling waters also contains a low pH level of between 2.74 and 3.34, making them highly acidic.
What about alcohol? While liquors vary in terms of pH level (most are acidic), the majority of alcohol has a drying effect on the mouth. Saliva keeps teeth moist and helps to remove plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface – alcohol prevents this defense. Darker drinks can also lead to stains on the teeth.
The good news is that there are a few tricks to reduce damage while enjoying these beverages. First, consider using a straw for acidic beverages. This lessens the amount of contact time with the beverage and your teeth. Second, your first instinct may be to brush your teeth after a sugary drink, but STOP! Brushing enamel that has already been softened by a beverage could end up doing more harm than good. Instead wait about 30 minutes. Third, make sure to drink lots of water to a) stay hydrated, and to b) swish around your teeth to help remove some of the acid.
Now, let’s focus on beverages that help your teeth!
Water with fluoride helps to strengthen and clean teeth. Milk and other dairy products are rich in calcium, casein, and phosphorous which strengthen, repair, and even fight tooth decay. Vegetable juices that are low in sugar are also beneficial because vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. Dark green juices are also rich in B vitamins which help fight against gum disease.
This infographic from Mouth Healthy of the American Dental Association makes it easy to determine the acidity levels in various drinks.
If you are concerned about the potential harm the beverages you are consuming may be doing to your teeth, let us know at your next checkup. We are happy to help answer any questions!