It's common knowledge that sugary drinks are bad for your oral health. You’ve probably been told to steer clear of fruit juices and soda pop. Not only are these drinks full of sugar, which feeds the microbes that start the onset of decay, but they’re also naturally acidic, and this will wear down your enamel even faster. However, we know that it’s difficult to completely cut out all sugary beverages from your diet. Instead, Flintlock Dental will take a look at some of the most common questions and misunderstandings when it comes to soda pop and teeth. Hopefully this information will help you get the information you need to make a more reasonable change to your soda consumption.
Myth: Clear Soda is Better for Your Teeth than Dark Soda
No matter how clear the soda pop is, it will still do harm to your teeth. While clear sodas are less likely to stain your teeth with regular consumption than caramel-colored drinks, the sugar content and acidity is still doing harm. Neither option is healthy, so you should try to keep your soda intake to a minimum to reduce the amount of sugar and acid you’re putting into your mouth.
Myth: Diet Soda is Fine because It’s Sugar Free
Sugar is considered one of the worst culprits when it comes to dental decay. In fact, it’s not the sugar itself that harms the teeth, but rather the acidic byproducts that form when that sugar is introduced to the microbes that occur naturally in your mouth. This might make you feel better as you take a sip from that diet soda can that says “sugar free,” but you’re not totally in the clear to drink diet soda all day every day when it comes to oral health. Even though there's no real sugar in this soda for the decay-causing microbes to feast upon, the drink itself is still acidic enough to wear away at your enamel.
Myth: Drinking Soda through a Straw Will Protect Your Teeth
It’s a common belief that drinking your pop through a straw will bypass the teeth and prevent decay, and there is some truth to this. It’s possible that using a straw to limit direct contact of sugar to your teeth will prevent some wear. However, you’d have to aim that straw directly down your throat in order to completely solve the problem, and that’s not going to leave a very good taste in your mouth. Even if you drink through a straw, there will still be some sugary contact with your teeth. Plus, any soda that ends up in your mouth at all will change the acidity and harm your smile. So while a straw may be somewhat helpful in lessening tooth decay, it does not put you 100 percent in the clear.
FAQ: Is Corn Syrup More Harmful for My Teeth than Cane Sugar?
No matter what the type of sugar, any direct contact it has with your teeth is not healthy. Whether it’s from corn sugar or cane sugar, fruit or bread, any sugar will speed up the erosion of your tooth enamel over time. The best solution for your teeth is to limit said intake in general. When you really need that sugary beverage, drink it in one sitting alongside a meal instead of sipping it throughout the day, so you limit the amount of time that sugars sit in your mouth.
FAQ: What Happens to My Teeth if I Drink Too Much Soda?
Now that we’ve looked at some myths about soda pop and dental health, let’s take a look at exactly what it does to your teeth over time. We've mentioned erosion and the decay of your teeth, but what does that mean exactly? The sugars from soda feed microbes that produce acid byproducts, and the drink itself is somewhat acidic. As soon as even a mild acid comes into contact with your teeth, it starts to soften that hard protective layer on top of your teeth called the enamel. Once this layer has started to soften, it’s easier for other damage to occur, such as cracking and wearing away. It's difficult to fix softened enamel and impossible to regrow it to fix the resulting wear.
Once the enamel has been softened and damaged, cavities will start to form in your teeth. These are areas where the enamel has worn down to the softer layer underneath, called the dentin. Once a cavity has formed, there is no natural way to remedy it, and the area of decay must be ground away and filled in with a filling. Taking care to limit or even eliminate soda from your diet is the best thing you can do for the health and strength of your teeth.
FAQ: What are the Best Alternatives to Soda?
If you need that carbonated fizz or sugary sweetness without the tooth decay, there are some alternatives that you can drink in place of your soda. The best beverage for the health of both your teeth and body is plain water, but many people find that too boring for all-day consumption. Avoid any kind of juice, as these have as much or more sugar than soda and are also acidic. A great option is to switch to seltzer water. Carbonated water still gives your mouth that fizzy pop feeling without the added sugar sticking to your teeth, and it comes in many flavors. If you want to kick that seltzer water up a notch, you can add some chopped up fresh fruit. While this adds some acidity and natural sugars to the drink, it’s still much less than soda. You can also switch to unsweetened tea.
FAQ: What if I Can’t Stop Drinking Soda?
It's okay to have a soda every now and then, and if you simply cannot kick the habit completely, there are a couple of steps you can take to help protect your teeth as you drink it:
- Rinse your mouth with water after every soda you drink. This will help get that sugary film off of your teeth.
- Drink your sugary drink relatively quickly alongside a meal. This condenses the amount of time your teeth are exposed to sugar and acids. If you slowly sip a soda all day, it will do much more damage over time.
- While it might seem helpful to brush your teeth after every soda, this can actually wear away at the enamel even faster while it’s softened by acidity. Stick to a twice-a-day brushing schedule, unless your dentist tells you otherwise.
- Use a fluoride-rich toothpaste. This will help strengthen your enamel.
- Make sure you keep your regularly scheduled cleanings with your dentist. These appointments will help you keep track of the strength of your enamel. Also, your dentist can help you make sure you’re taking the best care of your teeth possible.
Whether you have 3 sodas a day or one a month, the sugar content in these drinks will wear down on the enamel of your teeth. While the best solution is to switch to drinking plain water, there are some steps you can take to reduce the damage done by soda pop, such as rinsing out your mouth with water and drinking the beverage alongside a meal. With a conscious effort to limit your sugary drink intake, as well as having good oral hygiene, you can take better care of your teeth and their protective enamel while still enjoying your cold fizzy beverages. Always make sure to stay in contact with your dentist and take the steps he or she suggests for keeping your oral health on track.