WHAT WE DRINK can have a big impact on our oral health, sometimes in ways that seem counterintuitive. We want to take a look at some of the best and worst drinks for our teeth.
It probably doesn’t surprise many people to hear that soda is pretty terrible for our teeth, but so are sports drinks and fruit juice. The main culprits within these types of tasty drinks are acid and sugar. Sugar feeds the harmful bacteria in our mouths, which then excrete acid on our teeth, where it erodes tooth enamel. Acid, whether it’s carbonic acid in soda or citric acid, essentially cuts out the middle man and erodes tooth enamel directly. Sugar-free soda is a better option, but still not perfect because removing sugar doesn’t do anything about the acidity. A better way to get daily servings of fruit than glasses of fruit juice is by eating the actual fruit. The water and fiber helps diminish the effects of sugar and acid, more of the nutrients remain, and it’s much more filling.
Drinks like coffee, black tea, and alcohol are also pretty bad for oral health, particularly the varieties that are dark in color, as these can stain. With coffee and tee often comes a lot of added sugar, and alcohol dehydrates the mouth, which makes it more vulnerable to bacteria without the defense of saliva.
Milk is an excellent source of calcium, which we all need for keeping our teeth and bones strong. Some enamel remineralization is possible in our teeth, but only when our bodies have the right building blocks available, like calcium. For those who are lactose intolerant or dairy free, calcium-fortified soy milk is a great alternative. One caution about milk: it does contain natural sugars, which means it’s not a good idea to leave a child with a bottle or sippy cup of milk at bedtime. The remnants feed oral bacteria just like sugar in soda does, leading to a condition known as “bottle rot.” Unlike black tea, coffee, and red wine, green and herbal teas don’t stain teeth! They actually have benefits for oral health, because they contain bacteria-fighting polyphenols. Just keep the added sugar low or use sugar-free sweeteners instead! Water isn’t just a great mouth-healthy drink, it’s essential to good overall health! Without enough water, we can’t produce saliva, and the simple act of drinking water after we eat helps wash away the remaining food particles to keep our mouths clean until it’s time to brush our teeth!
We aren’t going to tell our patients that they must cut all the sugary and acidic drinks out entirely, but we do recommend cutting back and drinking more of the good ones: milk, green and herbal teas, and especially water. On top of that, don’t forget about brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and scheduling dental cleanings twice a year!