Most people are aware of the pitfalls of drinking sugary soft drinks when it comes to tooth decay. The science behind that is that bacteria in the mouth love to feed on the sugar and convert it to acid which attacks tooth enamel and eventually leads to tooth decay. But the issue is far greater than sugar! Other ingredients – besides sugar – really matter, too.
Soft drinks – What else is in them?
This month (September), the New York City Board of Health banned the serving of sodas larger than 16 oz. in restaurants because of their contribution to obesity. Perhaps that move will have a positive effect on oral health, too. When it comes to oral health, it’s not just the sugar that’s the culprit. Many soft drinks contain either citric acid or phosphoric acid to add flavor to them. So drinking diet sodas won’t get you off the hook for exposing your teeth to enamel-eroding acid. Remember, it’s the acid that results from the sugar – not the sugar itself – that causes the problem. Both the amount and frequency of soda consumption has a bearing on the health of your tooth enamel.
Should you drink sports drinks instead?
Runners and other athletes have long turned to sports drinks as a healthier-than-soda alternative. Sports drinks have become trendy among all teens, regardless of their level of participation in sports. However, teens and their parents should be aware of a study published earlier this year (May/June 2012 issue of General Dentistry – journal of the Academy of General Dentistry). The study implicated sports drinks, as well as energy drinks, for giving teeth a very unhealthy acid bath. The acid levels vary from drink to drink, and even by flavor of drink, although energy drinks generally contain more acid than sports drinks.
According to this recent study, consuming sports or energy drinks for just five days can cause noticeable erosion of tooth enamel! If you do drink sports or energy drinks, try to rinse your mouth with water immediately afterwards to rid your mouth of the acid.
So water is the best option?
In general, yes, water is a great option not only for staying hydrated, but also for helping to preserve your oral health. However, one thing to consider when it comes to water is what might NOT be in the water. With the growing tendency to drink bottled water instead of tap water, some people may miss out on the enamel-strengthening fluoride that is present in most city and community water supplies. Most toothpastes do contain fluoride, however, so it may not be an issue. It’s certainly something to discuss with your dentist if a teen (or an adult) seems especially prone to tooth decay.