We know that the foods we eat affect our oral hygiene, especially for those patients wearing braces. However, beverages make even more contact with teeth than food. Therefore, it is essential to consider the liquids you consume as an important component of dental health.
In general, drinks that are higher in sugar and acid are the worst for teeth. They can cause tooth decay and sensitivity and weaken tooth enamel. If you’re looking for ways to improve your oral health through what you drink, this article offers suggestions about when to indulge and what to avoid.
Beverages that are high in sugars, acids, and dyes are a trifecta of dental adversaries, and you should consume them sparingly. Drink from a straw when possible to minimize contact with your teeth, and rinse with water afterward.
Sugary Soda or Energy Drinks
Sodas are full of sugar and acid, and many contain dyes as well. Although sugar alone is benign, it enhances harmful bacteria in your mouth that convert it to acid and attack your enamel. This process lasts around 20 minutes and restarts after each sip.
Acid on the outer surface of the teeth leads to sensitivity and decay, and it depletes essential minerals. Tooth enamel begins to dissolve at a pH of 5.5, and soft drinks typically range from 2.3 to 5.2.
Sports drinks are not good for your teeth despite helping the body replenish water, minerals, and electrolytes. According to experts, sports drinks are not suitable for daily consumption unless you are a high-performance, elite athlete.
In fact, a 2019 study found that despite having excellent overall health, athletes had worse oral health than the general public due to their use of sports drinks and other recovery products like sports gels.
Sports drinks have extremely high acidity and can contain large amounts of sugar. Their dyes also are likely to stain teeth with persistent use. So, what should you reach for after a workout or game? For most of us, plain water works just fine.
Many people look to diet drinks as an overall healthier alternative. However, diet drinks are just as bad for your teeth as their sugary counterparts because of their high acidity. In fact, some studies suggest that diet sodas and lemonades prompt even more erosion than regular versions.
Though fruit can be good for your teeth, fruit juice removes healthy fiber and adds sugar. Fruit juices also contain more acids than the actual fruits from which they’re made. These juices are therefore likely to cause tooth decay, especially if they are made of fruits that are highly acidic, like citrus, grapes, and cranberries.
Coffee is well known as one of the main culprits of tooth staining. The dark color of the coffee bean latches onto the enamel and builds on the teeth. It also is highly acidic, and many people enhance their cup of joe with sugars, flavors, or sweeteners. If you can’t live without your morning cup, avoid sweetening it and opt for iced coffee as often as possible since you can drink it through a straw.
Sweet tea poses a high risk of tooth decay and cavities because of its high sugar and acid content. Bottled teas can actually contain more sugar than soda, and they have an acidic pH, typically between 2.5 and 3.5.
Wine & Cocktails
Most wines contain strong dyes, with red wine, in particular, being a magnet for stains. However, white wine can be more acidic than red wine. Most cocktail beverages are high in both sugars and acids as well.
Additionally, alcohol causes dehydration, which reduces the saliva in your mouth. An adequate and continuous flow of saliva is essential for defense against harmful bacteria, acids, and sugars. Therefore, it’s important to drink a lot of water with any alcohol you consume.
If you’re trying to upgrade your beverage menu to include options that are better for your teeth, this list offers alternatives to the worst drinks. However, you should still consume these drinks in moderation.
Coconut water is an antioxidant-packed option that can serve as a refreshing substitute for sugary beverages. It’s also a great alternative to sports drinks, with electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Just make sure you buy a brand that does not add commercial sugar to this naturally sweetened drink.
Blended juice from natural fruits that are low in acidity (e.g. bananas and berries) are much healthier for the teeth than store-bought fruit juices. Juicing these fruits at home is the best way to ensure they don’t contain additives full of acids and sugars.
Clear Liquor & Beer
Though no alcohol is good for the teeth, clear liquors are better alternatives than brown liquors, wines, or cocktails. They won’t cause staining and will actually kill some of the bacteria that are responsible for bad breath.
If you’re a beer drinker, opt for a light one. Their higher water content makes them less acidic, and they won’t stain the teeth as much as darker-colored beers.
Unsweetened teas are relatively safe for your oral health because their pH is above 5.5, making them significantly less acidic than coffee or sodas. However, like coffee, black tea is known for its propensity to stain teeth, especially when consumed often.
Bottled or Sparkling Water
Bottled water poses no direct threat to your teeth. However, the bottling process strips water of its fluoride. If you are a regular bottled-water drinker, you’ll want to supplement with fluoride toothpaste and rinses.
When a drink is carbonated, carbonic acid develops in the liquid. This alone is not usually enough to damage the teeth. But some sparkling waters, such as club soda or tonic, can contain corrosive additives.
Tap or Mineral Water
Drinking enough water each day is important for both physical and dental health. For the teeth, tap water is the best way to stay hydrated. Water from your faucet is full of fluoride that also strengthens teeth and removes food particles. When you want something fancier, mineral water is the best choice because the mineral content and calcium phosphate help rebuild enamel.
Milk contains calcium and phosphorus, which strengthens tooth enamel, and vitamin D, which reduces gum inflammation. Additionally, milk contains a protein called casein, which fights against tooth decay and forms a protective layer over the teeth. Although milk has naturally occurring sugars, it generally won’t cause cavities.
Though milk substitutes are not as effective as dairy, they also provide some dental benefits. Soy milk also contains calcium and vitamin D, though in lower amounts. Almond milk does as well, but at even smaller levels than soy. Always opt for the unsweetened versions, as many milk alternatives contain added sugars that will counter their positive effects.
Green, White, or Herbal Tea
These teas make good choices because they contain antioxidants that help fight cavity-causing bacteria, reduce inflammation in your gums, and stimulate saliva production. White tea has the added benefit of being a natural fluoride source, which helps strengthen your enamel. Some of these teas also can offer a caffeine content that is competitive with the darker teas and coffees.
Are you ready to take the next step toward improving your dental health and your smile? Start by contacting us today to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified orthodontists.