When you stand in front of the beverage selection at the mini-mart, you’re faced with a host of options to quench your thirst. Drinks in every color in the rainbow vie for your attention, and marketing tactics often proclaim that a product is the fountain of youth. Does your choice of beverage matter when it comes to your teeth? How does that sports drink or soda affect both your teeth and health?
We all know that most of these drinks contain a lot of sugar, and it’s easy to overlook just how much is really in each bottle. By doing a little math, you can more easily visualize just how much sugar is in that bottle or can. The nutritional label reports the number of grams of sugar in a serving, and there are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. If a bottle shows 20 grams in a single serving, that equates to 5 teaspoons!
A 12-ounce beverage used to be considered the norm, but now 20-ounce bottles have become standard. However many labels still reflect an 8-ounce serving, meaning that the bottle really contains 2.5 servings. Before you drink up, calculate the real amount of sugar you’ll be consuming.
Think about this:
The bacteria that cause cavities use sugar for energy and produce acidic waste that erodes tooth enamel. Syrupy drinks provide an ideal power source to keep this population thriving while instigating an insulin spike in the bloodstream. The colossal sugar load also drives the liver to convert sugar into fat. Chronically elevated insulin creates insulin resistance, a condition that contributes to a range of diseases. From cavities to cancer, sugared drinks help fuel many of the health problems afflicting people today.
Acid is a Big Problem
While sugar is a big part of the formula that produces tooth decay, it’s the acid that ultimately causes enamel to dissolve. The normal pH of your mouth rests around 7, but tooth structure begins to erode when the acidity drops to 5.5. Soda can send your mouth’s pH into a nosedive, making your mouth 1000 times more acidic than needed for tooth damage. A review of many ingredient labels shows citric, phosphoric, and carbonic acids in the mix. It may take 15 minutes for the mouth’s pH to return to normal after the last sip, and that means a steady diet of sugary drinks can alter the mouth for hours each day.
Diet sodas are risky too, often hovering around a pH of 3.2, well into the range that damages teeth. Even without the sugar, a steady exposure to high acidity can still lead to weakening the tooth enamel. Artificial sweeteners may also have long-term general health effects that we’re yet to understand fully.
Reduce the Damage
Regularly drinking water is the best bet for the sake of your teeth and overall health. But if you do want to drink a soda or sugary beverage, consider the following tips:
- Drink soda or sports drinks through a straw to minimize your teeth’s exposure.
- Rinse with water right after drinking a sugary beverage..
- Avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after drinking the beverage. This practice allows your mouth to return to normal pH before the teeth undergo the light abrasion of brushing.
- Avoid drinks that list acids on the ingredient label.
Enjoying a sports drink after exercise or a soda with dinner is occasionally isn’t a cause for concern, so have one once in a while and commit to keeping sugar exposure to a minimum and drink more fresh water: Your teeth and your body will thank you!