They’re just about everywhere we are. The grocery store. The movie theater. At parties. Our cars even have places specifically designed to hold them. They are soft drinks and a recent Gallup poll found that for 48% of Americans, they are a part of their everyday life. In fact, the poll also found that the average amount of soft drinks consumed daily was 2.6 glasses.
Simply stated, we love our soft drinks. Too bad they don’t love us back. It is an unfortunate fact that soft drinks are detrimental to both our overall and oral health. They have been found to contribute to a variety of medical conditions, such as obesity and type-2 diabetes to name a couple. Not only that, but soft drinks are also extremely destructive to your teeth and put you at an increased risk for developing tooth decay.
You can probably guess that the reason soft drinks are bad for you is because they contain sugar. In fact, this is one reason why soft drinks are bad for your teeth, but it isn’t the only reason. We’ll get to the second reason in a bit. Even if you realize that sugar is bad for your teeth, do you know why this is?
It is not necessarily sugar on its own that is bad for your teeth, but what the sugar does. Sugar serves as a food source for the thousands of decay-causing bacteria in your mouth. Although some of this bacteria is removed with regular brushing and flossing, they tend to accumulate in places you may miss. After the bacteria feasts upon the sugar, they excrete an acidic waste product directly on the surface of your teeth. The regular consumption of soft drinks means that bacteria are being provided with enough sugar to survive and multiply.
The acids produced by bacteria are harmful to the enamel and will cause it to erode over time. This is ultimately how cavities form. However, acid does not only come from bacterial excretions. In fact, acid is the second reason why soft drinks are bad for your teeth. Most soft drinks, especially sodas, contain tartaric, phosphoric, or citric acids. This means that the soft drink itself will start to erode your enamel before the bacteria even starts. Even sugar-free soft drinks contain harmful acids and are still considered to be bad for your teeth.
Since soft drinks are so detrimental to your oral and overall health, the best recommendation is simply to stop drinking them. However, this is not always a realistic goal for many people. Therefore, here are some things you can do to reduce the risks associated with soft drinks:
The next best thing to eliminating soft drinks altogether is to at least reduce the amount of soft drinks you consume on a daily basis. Instead, try drinking more water or even milk.
Your teeth are being attacked by acid and sugar from the first sip to about 20-30 minutes after you finish drinking. With that being said, drinking faster decreases the amount of time your teeth are actively being attacked by acid. Conversely, drinking slower can result in more damage.
Use a Straw
A straw is a good way to manage the flow of your beverage in order to reduce the amount of contact that acids and sugars have with the surface of your teeth.
Flush with Water
After you are done drinking your soft drink, flushing your mouth with water or milk can help minimize some of the damage by washing away some of the acids and sugars.
See Your Dentist
Regular dental exams and cleanings are important for everyone, however they are even more important when you have an increased risk of developing tooth decay. Having your teeth cleaned regularly removes excess bacteria from your mouth to minimize the risk of tooth decay.
Overall, soft drinks will continue to haunt us everywhere. Their availability combined with their acid and sugar content make them a threat to your oral health. Although certain things like limiting consumption, drinking quickly, using a straw, flushing with water, and regular dental visits can help decrease some of the damage soft drinks cause, they still put your oral health at risk.