Drinks that are as Bad or Worse for Your Teeth than Soda

November 5, 2021
Drinks that are as Bad or Worse for Your Teeth than Soda

Soda pop is a fizzy and delicious drink that many people love. However, soda consumption is decreasing across the U.S. population, and for a good reason. 

Though it can satisfy your sweet tooth, soda is bad for your body and significantly impacts dental health. Soda can cause cavities, gum disease, and yellow staining on your teeth. Americans are making the right choice by switching to healthier alternatives. 

It can be challenging to find a replacement for your favorite soda, and some substitutes can be just as bad for your dental health. This guide will help you navigate the beverage aisle and make better drink decisions to support a healthy smile. 

Sugary and Acidic Drinks  

Why is soda bad for your teeth? The ingredients promote dental enamel erosion. Enamel is the outer layer of the tooth that serves as a protective coating to keep your teeth healthy. It’s critical to preserve your tooth enamel because it can’t regenerate. Once it’s gone, there is no way to get it back. Specific drinks can cause our enamel to erode or wear away, leaving our teeth exposed to dangerous bacteria. Enamel is especially vulnerable to two substances. 

  • Sugar: Bacteria-rich plaque lives on your teeth and feeds from the sugars that stick to your mouth when you eat and drink. Sugar gives plaque the energy it needs to produce acid that breaks down the enamel coating on your teeth. 
  • Acid: Exposing enamel to acid weakens it. Acid is a byproduct of plaque, but it’s also common in many foods and beverages. Over time, consuming too much acid will erode your enamel. 

Excessive sugar and acid consumption will dissolve your enamel, which leads to cavities, gingivitis, and other severe oral health conditions. To protect your enamel, you should eliminate beverages that contain large quantities of sugar, acid, or both. 

Beverages That Erode Enamel

Knowing which drinks are bad for your teeth will help you make better beverage decisions. The following drinks promote dental enamel erosion and are just as bad or worse than soda.

1. Diet Soda

If you’re searching for a soda substitute, you may think diet options are a potential alternative. While diet sodas may contain zero sugar and fewer calories, they are still acidic. Sugar-free soda is bad for your teeth and can erode your enamel, just like the full-sugar options. Weakened enamel is also prone to staining. Many diet sodas have dark food coloring that can penetrate your teeth and leave behind a yellowish hue. 2. Lemonade

Lemonade is a classic and refreshing summer drink. However, it contains sugar and acid that adversely affect your dental health. The primary ingredients in lemonade are water, lemons, and granulated sugar. Water is the only element on that list that is good for your teeth. Lemon juice creates that iconic sour flavor because lemons are more acidic than any other fruit or vegetable at the grocery store. Lemon juice will slowly dissolve your enamel if you drink it too often. It can also irritate the tissue inside your mouth, leading to sensitive gums and canker sores. Making lemonade requires adding a few cups of sugar to counterbalance the tart lemon. Plaque thrives on sugar and will consume the lingering particles, producing an abundance of acid that helps erode your enamel even further and exposes your delicate teeth. 

3. Fruit Juices

Natural fruit juices can provide essential vitamins and nutrients to your body. However, they can also contain high levels of acid that are damaging to tooth enamel. The acidity will depend on what kind of fruit juice you choose. Citrus-based juices like orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime will be the most acidic. However, fruits like cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, and apples also contain various amounts of acid. If you regularly drink juice, it will start to dissolve your enamel and weaken your teeth. Fruit juices also contain natural and added sugars that plaque feeds on to create even more acid. Fruit juices can still be part of a healthy diet if you are careful to consume them in moderation. Choose varieties that are low in added sugar and fortified with calcium and vitamin D to promote dental health and counteract the acid’s negative effects. 

4. Iced Tea

While tea can be healthier than soda, some varieties are corrosive to your teeth. Black tea, rosehip, and fruit-infused tea are acidic enough to weaken your enamel over time. Sweetened teas with high sugar content are even worse. The extra sugar will cause the plaque on your teeth to multiply and produce even more acid. Much like soda, black tea’s dark color can easily stain your teeth. Luckily, you can find many tea varieties on the market, some of which are safe for your teeth. Choose one that is unsweetened, less acidic, and lighter in color to preserve your beautiful smile. 

5. Sports and Energy Drinks

Depending on the brand, sports and energy drinks can have almost as much sugar as soda. Often, they are highly acidic as well. These drinks may boost your energy and endurance, but they will also lead to cavities and tooth decay. The plaque in your mouth will devour the added sugar and release acid that decreases enamel. The acid from the drink and plaque combined will slowly break down the protective coating on your teeth. If you drink them too often, sports and energy beverages are bad for your dental health. It’s best to enjoy them sparingly to maintain strong enamel and healthy teeth. 

6. Alcohol

Alcohol is best in moderation for many reasons. Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol is detrimental to your entire body, including your mouth. Alcoholic beverages are often acidic and high in sugar, which strips away your enamel and increases dental issues. There are many different types of alcohol, from wine and beer to gin and malt beverages. Depending on your drink of choice, alcoholic beverages can cause dental enamel erosion. Cocktails and mixed drinks are combinations of various spirits and sugary mixers. While most liquor contains zero sugar, bartenders may combine them with soda or fruit juice. As a result, one cocktail can contain up to five teaspoons of sugar, which is more than half the suggested daily amount. While some varieties have more sugar than others, all of them are somewhat acidic. Many popular cocktails have an acidic base like vodka, rum, or gin, adversely affecting your teeth. Wine and beer are lower in sugar but have a high acid content, which can erode your enamel. It’s best to consume alcohol very sparingly to maintain the integrity of your pearly whites. 

7. Coffee

Many people start their mornings with a hot cup of coffee. While coffee is less acidic than other beverages on this list, the brewing process releases nine different acids that can wear down your enamel. Some people drink their coffee black, but most people add cream and sugar that supply plaque with the energy needed to produce additional acidic output. The combination of sugar and acid makes coffee bad for teeth. While coffee is better than soda in most cases, it has a similar deep brown color that stains your smile very easily. 8. Tomato Juice 

Some people like to drink tomato juice in a Bloody Mary, mixed into a smoothie, or even on its own. While tomatoes are an excellent source of healthy vitamins and antioxidants, they are also relatively acidic. Tomatoes also contain several grams of natural sugar, which can fuel plaque. 

The combination of acid from the tomatoes and the excess plaque can wear away your enamel and cause cavities and other dental challenges over time. 

How to Protect Your Teeth

It may seem like all your favorite beverages are off-limits. While it’s true that many beverages are best to enjoy in moderation, you can still drink some of your favorite refreshments. 

These strategies can help you drink your favorite liquids while protecting your enamel.

1. Choose Drinks That Are Good for Your Teeth 

You can sip several beverages freely to maintain a healthy smile. 

  • Milk: Consuming dairy products like milk helps stimulate saliva production that flushes bacteria-rich plaque and food debris from your mouth. Milk also contains calcium and other nutrients that promote healthy teeth. 
  • Water: Plain water is the ultimate beverage. It’s cleansing and hydrating to support a healthy mouth. Tap water and some bottled varieties contain fluoride, which helps prevent cavities and reduce plaque and other bacteria. 
  • Green and white tea: Unsweetened green and white tea are neutral compared to more acidic varieties. They contain healthy nutrients that can reduce inflammation in your body, including your gums. Green and white tea are lighter in color, which will prevent staining. 

2. Use a Straw 

If you want to enjoy a sugary or acidic beverage, you can use a straw to prevent dental enamel erosion. A straw will direct the liquid toward the back of your throat and away from your teeth, thus decreasing staining from dark beverages. 

Reusable bamboo and silicone straws are soft and flexible, so you can sip safely without accidentally chipping a tooth. 

3. Water It Down 

Like all acidic beverages, orange juice can damage your teeth. If you enjoy drinking fruit juices or tea a few times per week, you can make them slightly less acidic by adding water. Water is neutral and can lower your beverages’ acidity to make them less harmful to your enamel. 

If you prefer not to dilute your drink, you can alternate between water and juice to cleanse your teeth between sips. Drinking water will lower the acidity in your mouth and wash away excess sugar to protect your smile. 

4. Practice Moderation 

Cutting out sugary and acidic beverages from your diet can be challenging, especially if you rely on the energy boost they can provide. Surveys show that 49% of adults consume one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day like soda, coffee, energy drinks, and juice that can wear away enamel over time. 

If you’re going to consume these beverages, it’s crucial to do so in moderation. Consider limiting yourself to one sugary beverage each day, and follow up with water or milk to stay hydrated. It may be challenging at first, but you will get used to practicing this healthy habit eventually.

4. Eat Some Cheese

Consuming dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and butter will coat your teeth and protect your enamel. Milk contains minerals like calcium and phosphates that help strengthen your tooth enamel to protect against acidic beverages. Consider having a few slices of cheese before sipping on an acidic red wine with dinner.

Dairy is part of a balanced diet, and consuming milk throughout the day will help improve your dental health. 

5. Maintain Proper Dental Hygiene 

Consistent brushing and flossing are essential for removing acidic plaque and sugar from your teeth. Dentists recommend brushing twice per day for two-minute intervals to remove plaque and food debris that can cause cavities and gum disease. Flossing once per day is also essential for getting rid of hard-to-reach particles that get stuck between teeth. 

If you drink soda or another acidic beverage, you may think it’s a good idea to brush your teeth immediately afterward. However, this can cause more damage to your teeth by scrubbing away your weakened enamel. It’s best to wait at least one hour after consuming an acidic drink before brushing your teeth. Waiting will give your saliva time to reharden your enamel. 

Rinse your mouth out with water between meals or sugary beverages. 

6. Visit the Dentist Regularly 

Regular cleanings and dental checkups are essential for protecting your teeth and maintaining a healthy smile. Dentists recommend a deep clean every six months to prevent plaque buildup and identify minor tooth decay before it develops into a severe issue. 

The dentists at AZ Family Dental will help keep your teeth strong and healthy to withstand sugary and acidic beverages and prevent cavities and gum disease. If you develop any dental conditions, your dentist can provide treatments and preventive care to solve the problem and strengthen your smile. 

Strengthen Your Smile With AZ Family Dental 

Staying hydrated with beverages that are safe for enamel is critical for maintaining your dental health. Visit AZ Family Dental to learn more about how your diet can affect your oral health. We also provide regular cleanings and checkups to keep your teeth looking and feeling healthy. 

We treat our patients like family, so you can trust us to provide excellent care. Our staff is well-trained to offer a full range of dental treatments and services. Our practice has developed a reputation for providing high-quality care at a fair price for over 40 years. 

We’ll take great care of your teeth so your smile will last a lifetime. Schedule an appointment today at AZ Family Dental for a full array of dental services.

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