For years most of us have heard about the how much sugar is in soft drinks and how bad they are for our teeth. Does that mean if we just drink “diet” sodas, that it is healthy choice for our teeth? Definitely not! What these drinks lack in sugar, they make up for with acid. The acid in many of the drinks we consume today eat away the enamel on our teeth. When you put the two together – the sugar and the acid – it spells double trouble for your teeth!
In terms of your teeth, a pH of 5.5 and above will cause little or no harm. Any pH below 5.5 is bad. At 5.5 and below, a liquid will work to strip the protective enamel from your teeth.
When you take a sip of soda, juice, and many other drinks, the acid attacks your teeth. Each acid attack lasts around twenty minutes. This happens again with every sip. These continuous acid attacks weaken the tooth enamel. Once the enamel is weakened the bacteria in your mouth can cause a cavity.
It is not just the soft drinks that are so unhealthy for your teeth. As you will see in the chart below, it is also fruit juices and sports drinks. All these drinks have become a popular choice for a growing number of people, especially kids, teens and young adults. Too often these drinks are replacing healthy choices such as milk and water in our daily diet.
Larger serving sizes make the problem worse. From 6.5 ounces in the 1950s, the typical soft drink can has grown to 12 ounces, (and 20 ounces for a bottle). Presently, teens drink three times more soda than twenty years ago.
It may surprise you to see the chart below – examine it carefully – taking into consideration the acid level and amount of sugar in each drink.
Because the pH scale is logarithmic, a one unit change in pH is associated with a 10 fold change in the acidity. For example, lemon juice has a pH of 2.0, while grapefruit juice has a pH of 3.0. Lemon juice would therefore be 10x as acidic as grapefruit juice. Even more enlightening, Coke Classic is roughly 100 times as acidic as Barq’s root beer.
Recommendations to reduce the affects of sugar and acid on your teeth:
- Pop, juice and sports drinks should be consumed at meals to limit your teeth’s exposure to sugar and acid. Do not sip on them all day long.
- Limit these drinks to 1 can per day
- Drink through a straw to reduce the direct contact to the teeth
- Rinse your mouth with water after consuming pop. It is important to do this prior to brushing your teeth as it will help to neutralize the acids before you brush them into your teeth.
- Chew xylitol gum or mints after each time you consume these drinks during the day to help to restore the pH to a less acidic level.
- Never give a young child soda at bedtime. The liquid can pool in the mouth coating the teeth with sugar and acid all night.
- Always use fluoride toothpaste to protect your enamel.