Did you know that soft drinks are a leading cause of tooth decay? If you tend to sip on sugary soft drinks instead of water, you might want to rethink your drink of choice. Before you reach for that ice-cold can of pop, consider these scary facts about how soft drinks affect your teeth.
Soft Drinks Are Packed With Acidic Sugar
The high sugar content in soft drinks mingles with the bacteria found in your mouth, creating acid. The acid then continues to react in your mouth for 20 minutes, allowing it plenty of time to cause damage. The more soda you enjoy throughout the day, the longer your teeth are exposed to the potential damage.
Soft Drinks Lead To Soft Tooth Enamel
Acids produced by sugary drinks like soda attack your teeth’s hard outer layer called the enamel. As the acid comes in contact with your enamel, it begins to soften that hard protective layer, which leaves your enamel softer, and your teeth more vulnerable to cavities. Over time it also causes enamel erosion, so you have less and less protection for the softer layers below. To put things in perspective, your tooth enamel is actually the hardest substance in your entire body. Despite this fact, acids can still cause serious damage to your enamel because it is so corrosive.
Why Is Tooth Enamel Important?
Your enamel is your first line of defense to protect your teeth. Every day your teeth are under great pressure while chewing and biting when you eat. Enamel is very hard and designed to withstand all the day-to-day needs of your teeth. However, if your enamel is softening or eroding it becomes less and less effective at its job. Therefore, if you crunch on hard food, grind your teeth or bite down on something hard, you are at higher risk of chipping or cracking your teeth.
You also need enamel to help insulate your teeth. This insulation protects you from pain due to hot and cold extremes. If the enamel is compromised, you are more likely to experience tooth sensitivity or pain when you enjoy a bowl of ice cream or sip a cup of hot tea. You’ll also experience more discomfort if you try to use whitening products for your smile. Weakened, eroding enamel leaves tiny holes that allow heat and cold to penetrate through to the nerves below. As already mentioned, your enamel also helps prevent cavities. Once weakened you increase the risk for cavities.
Soft Drinks Cause Loss Of Tooth Brightness
That lovely white smile of yours is also affected by your enamel. It covers the outside of your teeth but is actually translucent. It’s the dentin below the enamel that shows your teeth’s colour. So if you drink a lot of dark-coloured sodas like cola, for example, you can actually stain the enamel on your teeth which in turn leads to a loss of tooth brightness and a dingy smile. The good news is regular cleanings and polishing at the dentist can help reduce the appearance of stains.
How To Avoid Acid Damage And Staining From Soft Drinks
Our first tip is to simply avoid drinking soft drinks in the first place, or at least reducing how often you enjoy them. However, if this isn’t practical for you, try the following tips:
- Dental Checkup: Make sure you attend your regularly scheduled dental check-ups. We will perform a thorough professional cleaning and polishing to remove plaque and tartar buildup that can increase the risk for cavities. Polishing can also reduce staining as mentioned above.
- Drink Soft Drinks Quickly: The more sugary drinks you enjoy, the more time the acids have to cause damage. The same can be said for how long you take to finish your drink. When you drink quickly there is less time for the acid to linger in your mouth. So the trick is to drink fewer soft drinks and to drink them faster.
- Use a Straw: Always use a straw with pop. The straw keeps the sugar away from your teeth and makes it harder for the acids to form and cause damage.
- Rinse After Soft Drinks: If soft drinks are something you aren’t willing to give up, always rinse your mouth with water when you finish your soda. This will remove the sugar and acid, so they don’t have a chance to cause damage.
- Don’t Brush Immediately After Consuming Soft Drinks: Instinct might tell you if you brush your teeth right after drinking soft drinks, you’ll get rid of the sugar and acid. However, this actually causes further damage. When you brush with the sugar and acids fresh in your mouth, what you’re actually doing is causing friction that makes it easier for the acid to settle into your teeth to do its job. Always wait at least 30 to 60 minutes after drinking soda before brushing.
- No Soft Drinks Before Bed: Drinking sugar-packed drinks before bed allows the acid to work on your teeth all night long! Also, generally speaking, it is not healthy at all to be drinking pop before bed. The sugar interferes with sleep, and if the drink contains caffeine, it’s even worse.
- Choose an Alternate Drink: Instead of always opting for pop, consider mixing things up a little with healthier choices. Some good alternatives include:
- Milk: A cold glass of milk offers tons of minerals, proteins, and vitamins, all good for your teeth. You get plenty of calcium and phosphorous that can actually repair the damage done to your tooth enamel. There’s also vitamin D which helps you absorb calcium and phosphorous and fight gum disease. Casein creates a protective film that protects your tooth enamel and makes it easier to fight tooth decay.
- Green or White Tea: Since black tea can stain your teeth, consider trying green or white tea. They provide healthy antioxidants to reduce cavity-causing bacteria and white tea even contains enamel-strengthening fluoride. Just don’t drink it with tons of sugar and honey!
- Tap Water: Water naturally flushes out cavity-causing acids, and tap water contains fluoride to strengthen enamel and prevent tooth decay. It’s also environmentally friendly compared to bottled water!