Before we reveal our pick of the top worst drinks for your teeth it is important to understand how big a contributing factor they are to tooth erosion and why this erosion spells disaster for your teeth.
Why is Tooth erosion so bad?
Tooth erosion, which we also call dental erosion or acid wear, is the irreversible loss of tooth structure that impacts the enamel and dentine.If you imagine your tooth is like a pumpkin with a soft inside and a hard shell then the enamel is that hard outer shell that protects the softer dentine inside.
Once the enamel has gone, any bacteria on the tooth will travel a lot faster into the dentine layer. So when we look at decay and erosion, the worst part of the attack is the one on the hard outer enamel.
Many people don’t think about erosion because it doesn’t happen all of a sudden, but instead it will occur unnoticed over a period of time.
Tooth erosion = a trip to the dentist
Tooth erosion is the origin of many of the dental problems that bring people to see me for restorative dental work. Whether it is Decay, Extractions or Root Canals, Abscesses, Fillings, Inlays & Onlays, Crowns, Implants or Dentures, we wouldn’t be seeing many of these patients if they had not experienced dental erosion in the first place.
Why would drinks cause dental tooth erosion?
When we consider drinks that are bad for our teeth we look at two main factors:
- Acidity: On the acid – alkaline scale we know that ph of 7 is neutral. Tooth erosion is more likely to occur to enamel in acidic environments of a 5.5 ph value or below.
- Sugar: The bacteria in your mouth that causes erosion and decay loves and thrives on sugar.
Our saliva acts as a natural ‘acid neutraliser’ but when we overload it with a drink that is too acidic or a slightly acidic drink that is drunk too often, then it simply cannot neutralise the problem.
This is a bigger problem for those that live in hot climates or take medications that can also cause a dry mouth, eg blood pressure tablets.
Our list of the worst drinks for teeth (in no specific order)
- Soft drinks (including diet soft drinks): Whether it is cola drinks (ph value 2.4) or lemonade (ph value 2.4) all soft drinks have a high sugar content and are also very acidic. Basically, the more sugar you have in a drink, the more erosion you’re likely to get and the faster it’s likely to happen. Soft drinks have the double whammy combination of acid and sugar.Carbonated water or sparkling mineral water whilst not as bad on the sugar front are still quite acidic so not recommended as being good for your teeth.
- Energy drinks: As well as being quite acidic and having lots of sugar, which is the bad combination for teeth, energy drinks also contain high amounts of caffeine. If consumed in high quantities, caffeine is not good for your general health and can lead to people being dehydrated and having low levels of saliva. The fact that some of these drinks are banned in some countries because of their caffeine levels should be a cause for concern for those that drink them.
- Fruit juice: This may be a surprise for some, particularly parents who use these as their ‘drink of choice’ thinking that they are good for their children’s health. Fruit juices have a high sugar content. In purely scientific terms, they are definitely a lot less acidic than soft drinks but they are still bad for your teeth. The same applies to pure fruit juices, cordials or a fruit smoothie. If you are going to drink fruit juices I would recommend diluting it with the water (see my top tips below as well)
- Sports drinks: A lot of people drink sports drinks to hydrate quicker (approximate ph value of 2.7) during or after exercise but don’t realise that they are also quite acidic, and therefore bad for your teeth. Here in Queensland where the weather is a lot hotter, I see a lot of fit and healthy people with dental problems and the only bad drink they have are the sports drinks whilst exercising.
Are coffee, tea or milk bad for your teeth?
Unsweetened tea has a ph level of between 5-6 depending on the strength (the stronger the tea the lower the ph level). Coffee is around 5.5 so just on the borderline from a dental perspective. These figures are all before you add any sugar or sweeteners and we also need to consider the caffeine content as well.
Skimmed milk has a ph of 6.8 so it is one of the better drinks for your teeth. Of all the drinks we have looked at water is still my favourite as the “best drink for your teeth.”
My 5 top tips for drinking your way to healthy teeth
Drink water: If you don’t mind what you drink then Water is by far and away the best option for your teeth and ongoing dental health.
- Drink don’t sip: Because your saliva continually works to neutralise the acidity in your mouth it is better to drink your acidic drink in one sitting rather than sipping continually over a long period of time. It gives your saliva the best chance to do its job.
- Rinse with water or chew sugar-free gum: If you do have acidic drinks then along with our second tip, be sure to have a glass of water or chew sugar-free chewing gum after your acidic/sugary drink. This gives your mouth a helping hand to get your saliva back to neutral.
- Don’t brush straight after a sugary drink: If there is already a low ph level in your mouth from an acidic/sugary drink then if you brush your teeth you will simply be brushing already weakened enamel. Instead enjoy a glass of water.
- Use a straw: If you do choose to drink an acidic/sugary drink then drink it through a straw as this will help the drink to bypass your teeth to a degree.
Let Alderley Dental help you to keep your teeth healthy
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