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Drinks and Your Teeth: Could Your Favorite Beverage Increase Your Risk of Tooth Decay?


Protect Your Enamel by Avoiding These Drinks

Keep your enamel strong and healthy by staying away from these drinks:

  • Sports and Energy Drinks. These drinks are acidic and contain large amounts of sugar. In fact, they are the worst type of drink for your teeth.
  • Soft Drinks. Both diet and regular versions of soft drinks can damage tooth enamel. Root beer contains the lowest acid level, while clear, citrus-flavored soft drinks contain the most acid.
  • Citrus Beverages. Lemonade and acidic juices, including orange, lemon, grapefruit, apple and cranberry juice can damage your teeth.
  • Coffee or Tea with Added Sugar. Whether these beverages are hot or cold, adding sugar to them increases your risk of tooth decay.
  • Alcohol. All types of alcohol, including wine, can weaken your enamel.
  • Vinegar. Natural health proponents recommend drinking cider vinegar to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from diabetes to high cholesterol. Never drink cider vinegar without mixing it with water first, as the acids in vinegar can damage your teeth.

Cavities are not just caused by eating sugary foods. The drinks you consume can also increase the risk that you will develop tooth decay. Understanding how your favorite drinks can damage your teeth will help you decide if you need to make a few changes to protect your tooth enamel.

How Does Sugar Affect My Teeth?

Every time you take a drink of your favorite sugary beverage, a layer of sugar coats your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth attacks the sugar, producing acids that can weaken or damage your tooth enamel, the hard, protective layer that covers the surfaces of your teeth. The longer you expose your teeth to sugar, the greater your chance of developing a cavity.

Sugar Isn't the Only Enamel Enemy

Beverages that contain acids are very effective at destroying tooth enamel. Once the damage occurs, your teeth are not only more likely to develop cavities, but may also become more sensitive when all or part of the enamel is missing. A variety of acids found in beverages are to blame for the problem, including citric, malic, phosphoric and tartaric acid.

The Worst Combination: Sugary AND Acidic

Drinks that are sugary and acidic, such as some fruit juices, soft drinks and lemonade, can make tooth decay occur much more quickly. Avoiding or limiting these drinks is essential to avoiding tooth decay.

Alcoholic Beverages Increase Your Tooth Decay Risk

Alcoholic beverages contain sugar, but that's not the only reason they are harmful to your teeth. When you drink alcohol, your saliva production decreases. Saliva is helpful in washing away sugar from your teeth. When it starts to dry up, your teeth can suffer. Drinking alcohol frequently can also irritate the tissues in your mouth and cause gum disease.

How Will I Know if My Enamel is Damaged?

If the drinks you consume have damaged your tooth enamel, you may notice several symptoms, including:

  • Yellow teeth due to exposure of the dentin layer under your enamel
  • Pain when you eat or drink cold, hot or sweet foods and drinks
  • Dents or pits on the chewing surfaces of teeth
  • Rounded appearance to your teeth as the enamel wears away
  • Cracks at the edges of your teeth

Things You Can Do to Reduce or Prevent Tooth Enamel Erosion

Follow these tips to rid your mouth of sugars and acids:

  • Drink water after consuming a beverage to remove sugars and acids, or chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production if water isn't available.
  • Do not spread drinking out over hours. Finish your drink quickly to avoid bathing your mouth in sugars and acids.
  • Drink beverages with a straw to limit exposure to your enamel.
  • Limit sugary and acid beverages to meal times. Food can help counteract acids.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after you drink an acidic drink. If you brush immediately after finishing your drink, you will spread the acid over your teeth instead of removing it.

Regular visits help your dentist spot signs of tooth decay and other dental health problems. If it's time for your next visit, call us to schedule a convenient appointment time.


Colgate: What Are Sugar Drinks Doing to Your Teeth:


Know Your Teeth: Soda Attack: Soft Drinks, Especially Non-Colas and Iced Tea, Hurt Hard Enamel, 5/15/16


WebMD: Tooth Enamel Erosion


Dentistry Today: Sugars, Acids in Alcohol May Lead to Tooth Decay, 12/16/10


Know Your Teeth: Sports and Energy Drinks Responsible for Irreversible Damage to Teeth, 5/12


Nutrition Research: Acidic Beverages Increase the Risk of In Vitro Tooth Erosion, 2008


University of Maryland Dental School: Soft Drinks and Dental Erosion, 8/27/04


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