You wouldn’t think what you drink would have as strong an effect on your teeth as what you eat - after all, doesn’t the liquid wash straight over where food would stick and damage? But certain drinks can linger on the surfaces of teeth and do just as much, if not more, harm than their solid counterparts. Let’s take a look at the worst, and best, drinks for your oral health:
- Water- the gold standard of drinking choices - hydrating, acid neutral, and when you get it from a tap or filter it usually contains fluoride!
- Milk- the calcium content and low acidity level of milk make it an excellent alternative to many beverage. Be careful, though - milk still has plenty of sugar, so no drinking it after you brush your teeth at night.
- Green/Herbal Tea- plenty of antioxidants, plus lower acidity than coffee with a caffeine perk (if you go green). Be sure to pick the unsweetened variety and watch out for black tea, which is more acidic and dries out the mouth faster. Green Tea may result in a bit of superficial staining for some, but this can be easily removed.
- Soda- the absolute worst, in pretty much every way. Soda may be delicious, but that’s its only redeeming quality. As you may have gleaned from the best drink list, liquids that are high in sugar are incredibly damaging to your teeth. Sugars, when left on teeth, encourage the proliferation of harmful bacteria that cause decay. Additionally, soda is very acidic, which wears through tooth enamel, weakening the structure and making it more susceptible to damage.
- Sport/Energy Drinks- very similar to soda in its effect on your teeth! While marketed as rehydrating and electrolyte replenishing, these drinks are often acidic and high in sugar.
- Juice- this is a trickier one, since the inclination is to think juices are healthy because they come from fruit. While we’d rather see you drink apple juice than Coke, the concentration of juice still makes it very high in sugar and pretty acidic (especially citrus juices). Our Tip: eat your fruits, don’t drink them.
- Wine any alcohol really, because the strength, sugar and acidity wear down enamel quickly. Red wine has the added danger of staining those pearly whites.
- Coffee To be fair, an unsweetened cup of coffee is not the most harmful thing in the world. The sweeteners people often add and the acid level, along with its ability to stain teeth, earn it a spot on the worst list, though. If you need that morning fix, try unsweetened, cold-brewed coffee for a healthier, lower acid alternative.
- Sparkling Water / LaCroix - A lot of people replace soda with sparkling water. Although this has systemic benefits, in our office, we see a TON of acid erosion from LaCroix. They’re not danger free!
Now, we understand that abstaining from the above list entirely isn’t reasonable - we wouldn’t want to either! Here are some tips on lessening the effects of teeth-damaging beverages:
- Moderation- as with anything, always in moderation. Limiting the quantity you consume limits your exposure and helps protect that smile!
- Rinse with water- as often as is reasonable, rinse with water after consuming a sugary or acidic drink. This will wash away some of the harmful agents that might otherwise linger and attack your teeth.
- Drink, don’t sip- consuming your beverage more quickly will limit the amount of time the liquid spends on your teeth.
- Use a straw- lessens the amount of direct contact these liquids have with your enamel
- Xylitol gum- gum stimulates saliva production, the body’s natural teeth cleanser. Xylitol is a great sugar alternative that actually fights decay causing bacteria in the mouth. Wins all around!
Take a look at our list of Acid and Sugar Levels in Common Food and Drink for more details on what common consumables contain!