According to Diabetes Canada, Canadians are consuming an unhealthy amount of sugary drinks. These drinks are linked to a higher risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes as well as being very damaging to our teeth.
Why is sugar bad for our teeth?
Most people know that sugar is bad for your teeth but may not know why. Sugar is fuel for the bacteria in our mouths. The bacteria digest the sugars from what we eat and drink and turn it into acid. The acid is what eats away at our teeth, leading to dental decay.
What kinds of drinks are harming our teeth?
Most drinks other than water are acidic and have the potential to harm our teeth. Milk does contain some natural sugars but is less harmful than some of the other choices found below:
Soda not only contains incredible amounts of sugar, but it is also very acidic. The combination of sugar and acid is very harmful to our teeth. We measure acidity on the pH scale, with the optimal pH for our mouth being 7, which is neutral. When the pH in our mouth drops to 5.5, our enamel starts to weaken and dissolve. Some sodas have a pH as low as 2.5, which is as acidic as our stomach acid! Regular exposure to these drinks can lead to dental decay and erosion.
These drinks are both very acidic and sugary, and the high levels of caffeine are dangerous to children and teens. Unfortunately, these drinks are becoming more and more popular, especially among Canadian youth.
Beer and wine
Most alcoholic beverages are both acidic and contain a lot of sugar. Over-consumption of alcohol can lead to a whole range of health issues as well as being harmful to your teeth.
The newly revised Canada’s Food Guide recommends that Canadians choose water as their drink of choice. Fruit juices are no longer considered a serving of fruit. Even 100% pure fruit juice contains a lot of natural sugar, which increases your risk of obesity and dental cavities. It is far better to eat a fresh piece of fruit and reach for a glass of water to wash it down!
Sweetened coffees and teas
Many people can’t start their day without their cup of coffee. Both coffee and tea are acidic, but if you are adding sugar, they become even worse for your teeth. Specialty coffees with flavoured syrups can have a whopping amount of sugar. If you need your daily boost of coffee or tea, try having it without added sugar. This may take some initial getting used to, but there are sugar-free alternatives you can use if needed.
Canadian kids play a lot of sports, and many of them regularly consume sports drinks. These drinks typically contain a mix of water, sugar and electrolytes (minerals like salt, potassium and magnesium). The truth is unless your child is participating in high intensity and prolonged activity, water is enough to keep them adequately hydrated.
Often people think that choosing diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are better for their health and their teeth. They do not contain the sugars that are digestible to the bacteria in our mouths, but are they safe for our teeth? Sadly, no. Diet drinks are still very acidic and have an erosive effect on our teeth.
Tips to minimize damage to our teeth:
- Choose plain water as your main drink. Try to rinse your mouth with water after eating and drinking.
- Try having your tea and coffee without sugar.
- Drink through a straw. This helps to cut down on the amount of contact the drink will have with your teeth. There are lots of reusable options on the market now, such as metal or paper straws.
- If you must have sugary or acidic drinks, have them at mealtimes. When you are eating, you have more saliva being produced, which helps to buffer some of the acids. Sipping between meals means your teeth are exposed to harmful sugar and acids more times during the day.
- Do not sip sugary or acidic drinks over a long period of time. This is far more damaging to your teeth than if you finish your drink quicker. Aim to finish your drink within fifteen minutes.
- If you’ve had an acidic or sugary drink, wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. Brushing right away while your enamel is weakened will increase your risk of acid erosion.
As a summary, try to choose water as much as possible while limiting other types of drinks. This, in combination with practicing excellent oral hygiene, will help keep your smile healthy and beautiful. Contact us to learn more, or to schedule your dental visit.