Why is soda bad for you in general, let alone bad for your teeth? Many soft drinks contain an abundance of sugar. The average American diet contains too many added sugars. Excessive sugar consumption contributes to health problems such as weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
What does soda do to your teeth specifically? Soda baths the teeth with sugars, feeding bacteria in your mouth. Some of these bacteria produce acid that dissolves enamel (the tooth’s thin, outer layer). What’s more, the acids in sodas can erode enamel even if the soda is sugar free and the bacteria do not produce their own acid.
Enamel dissolving from exposure to sugar increases your risk of cavities (dental caries), which is loss of the the hard, mineralized tissue supporting tooth structure that if left untreated, can lead to pain and sensitivity in the teeth, problems eating and speaking, tooth loss, and severe gum disease that can spread to other body parts. Enamel dissolving due to the acids in the soda (sugar containing or diet) can result in exposed dentin at the root (acid erosion) that is sensitive to touch or cold drinks and air.
Here is the bottom line: Soda isn’t great for your teeth and your overall health.
Patients sometimes ask, “How much soda is OK for teeth?” Considering a single can of soda has more sugar than anyone should consume in a day, the blunt answer is, “None.” Even small soft drink servings at top restaurant chains contain 65 grams of added sugars on average, an amount more than the recommended daily limit of 50 grams (12 teaspoons).
But given the realities that most Americans drink at least one sugary drink any given day and are unlikely to swear off soft drink altogether, let’s explore whether we can mitigate the harmful effects of soda on teeth.
No type or brand of soda helps your teeth, but diet soda has no sugar so it does not cause decay (or obesity) the same way.
The pH scale measures acidity. Values range from 0-14. The lower a beverage’s pH value, the higher its acidity, and the more damage it can do to your enamel. Water is in the middle, scoring a 7. Some colas have a pH value of 2.4 or less, meaning they are highly acidic so they may cause erosion of the tooth, particularly at the gumline.
Diet soda may have less sugar than regular soft drinks or even be marketed as “sugar-free.” It’s still acidic, however. Its chemical composition means it can still cause enamel erosion.
Other no-added-sugar drinks sometimes considered or marketed as alternatives to soda, including 100% citrus fruit juices and canned ice teas, can also cause enamel erosion.
If you’re going to drink soda, sip it through a straw set toward the back of your mouth. Using a straw minimizes how long soda is in contact with your teeth.
But a straw is no “free pass.” The soda’s acids and sugars will still coat your back teeth. After you finish drinking, rinse your mouth with water to reduce residue.
And if you’re not using a straw, don’t nurse your drink. Drink it quickly to cut the time it’s touching your teeth, then rinse with water.
Brushing immediately after drinking doesn’t cut the harmful effects of soda on teeth. Clinical research shows waiting 30-60 minutes causes less damage.
Soda’s sugars and acids waste no time damaging your teeth. When you add toothbrush bristles into that mix, you’re effectively helping “etching” your tooth enamel.
Give your mouth a half hour to an hour to mount a natural defense using your saliva. Then help it along by brushing and rinsing with a fluoride rinse or fluoridated mouthwash.
While soda is bad for your teeth, we at PDFP realize not everyone will give it up. Drinking these sugary beverages only occasionally and quickly (or through a straw), then rinsing with water and brushing at least a half hour later can give your teeth a fighting chance against soda’s corrosive effects.
Your best defense against enamel erosion and tooth decay is regular dental care, whether or not you drink soda.
PDFP offers expert, comprehensive, affordable care to help you get and keep a healthy and beautiful smile. Make your appointment today by using our online form or calling us at 215-898- PDFP (7337).