We think about beverages a lot during the summer when we’re hot and thirsty, but we should drink fluids all year round. In the summer, we’ll sometimes guzzle anything that’s handy, just to quench our thirst. Other times of the year, we can be a little more thoughtful about our choice of beverages, so maybe January is an ideal time to discuss beverages and their effect on teeth. That way, when summer arrives, we’ll all be in the habit of drinking fluids that can benefit us, but not harm our teeth.
First, let’s look at marketing. Beverages are big business and the bulk of a beverage company’s expenses goes toward advertising. Coca-Cola spends about $4 billion dollars a year to advertise. Of course, the company is worth $80 billion, so that’s not a huge slice of the pie, except that Coke owns 500 other brands that also need to advertise. What other brands does Coke put its enormous financial resources behind? Well, there’s Sprite, Fanta, Mello Yello, Surge, Powerade, Dasani, Gold Peak, Simply Beverages, Minute Maid, Odwalla, Fairlife, Smart Water, Vitamin Water, Costa Coffee, and hundreds of others.
It’s easy to be swept up by ads. The people in soft drink ads always look so refreshed, so happy, and they’re always having so much fun. Their teeth, however, may tell a different story. So, for the sake of our teeth, let’s ignore all the ads and images and concentrate on what effect a selection of beverages has on our teeth.
Bacteria in the mouth love sugar even more than we do. Unfortunately, the bacteria convert the sugars to acid which has an erosive effect on tooth enamel. Soda also contains acids of its own, so teeth get a one-two punch of enamel destroying acids. Plus, the acids lower the pH of saliva, which allows bacteria to proliferate and create acid, and the cycle goes on. Saliva keeps teeth healthy in a couple of ways: it contains calcium and phosphate to strengthen tooth enamel and it washes away acids that can form on teeth. By neutralizing saliva, the acids in soda can eat away at tooth enamel unimpeded causing cavities, and plaque.
Because many people seem aware of the harmful effects that sugary drinks have on teeth, soft drink manufacturers have promoted sugar-free beverages as a healthy, tooth-friendly alternative. Unfortunately, sugar-free soda has the same high acid levels as sugary soda. Plus, the carbonation in any soda can also produce carbonic acid, which will destroy enamel.
For those believing sugar substitutes are better for teeth than sugar, they should know artificial sweeteners have their own issues. Artificial sweeteners—including sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, sucralose, aspartame, and saccharine—all serve as a food source for plaque bacteria. Diet sodas may not add calories, but they have the same effect on teeth as sugary sodas.
Energy Drinks and Juice
If soda including diet soda are both on your teeth’s enemy list, what about other beverages, like energy drinks or juice? A 2008 study showed that energy drinks can damage tooth enamel more than soda. Fruit juice containing citric acid, like grapefruit, lemon, or orange juice, can also strip the enamel from your teeth. Because many fruit juices contain beneficial vitamins, drink juice in one setting, rather than sipping it over a prolonged period, and drink it through a straw to minimize contact with teeth.
Those who have alcohol addiction have higher plaque levels and are three times more likely to experience permanent tooth loss than the general population. For moderate, social drinkers, alcohol can also cause problems for teeth. Alcoholic beverages all contain sugars, and—as previously discussed—bacteria love to eat sugars and produce enamel-eroding acids. Those who like their alcohol mixed with soda are just compounding the problem.
Alcohol also causes dry mouth and—as was also previously discussed—a steady flow of saliva helps prevent enamel erosion and also washes away harmful bacteria which would otherwise stick to teeth. Drinkers of darker liquor or red wine will also find their teeth being stained by the beverage, and while this isn’t necessarily evidence of poor oral health, it isn’t very attractive.
If you’re like many Americans, your day doesn’t start until you’ve had your first cup of coffee. Unfortunately for most of us, there are a few things we know for certain about coffee, all of which have a negative impact on dental health:
- It’s highly acidic
- It can cause dry mouth
- It will stain your teeth
The acid in coffee can erode the protective enamel on your teeth. Enamel erosion can cause sensitivity to temperature, discoloration, cracks and chips, and increased susceptibility to decay and cavities.
Caffeine consumption can also cause dry mouth due to dehydration. As mentioned before, a decrease in saliva production, due to even slight dehydration, can cause a sharp increase in tooth decay and periodontal disease.
As with dark alcohol and red wine, the most obvious effect of coffee on teeth is the dark staining that occurs. Tooth enamel is filled with tiny pits and ridges that can trap food and beverages. Dark, acidic beverages such as coffee can get into these nooks and crannies, quickly darkening teeth.
Without question, water is considered the best beverage for teeth. Water washes away food debris without leaving a sugary or acidic residue, and it reduces dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay. However, if you’re sipping your bottled water and feeling like you’re doing the best possible thing for your teeth, you’d be wrong. While bottled water is better for teeth than any type of soda, energy drink, juice, or alcoholic beverage, it’s missing a crucial ingredient that your teeth love: fluoride.
The beverage that provides the most oral health benefits is the one that comes from your faucet. Tap water has all the cleansing benefits of any type of water, with the addition of cavity-fighting fluoride.
America began the large-scale fluoridation of its water supply in 1951, after studying it for years. Fluoridated water was named by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, for its ability to reduce tooth decay by 20 to 40%.
If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, or you’re worried about the presence of other chemicals, you can still have your bottled water; just be sure to supplement the missing fluoride by using a fluoride toothpaste, a fluoride rinse, or by having Dr. Robert Brei talk to you about fluoride and the best solutions for you and your family.
There are many ways to contact the office of Dr. Brei. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, call them at 520-325-9000, or click here to book an appointment directly. No matter what the season or what your favorite beverage is, make an appointment for a checkup and cleaning to keep your teeth in the best possible condition.