If you’re like millions of people across America, you most likely consume at least one sugary drink on a daily basis — and there’s a very good chance that drink is soda. Drinking soft drinks that contain high amounts of sugar is commonly associated with obesity, weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, and other health ailments. But soft drinks can also have ill effects on your smile, and can potentially lead to cavities and, in some cases, even visible tooth decay.
How Do Soft Drinks Affect My Teeth?
When you consume soft drinks (soda), the sugars contained in the beverage interact with the bacteria that is naturally present in your mouth to form acid. The freshly-formed acid attacks your teeth and surrounding gum tissue. In addition, both regular sodas and those labeled as “sugar-free” also contain their own acids. These acids also form an assault on your teeth. With each sip you’re starting a damaging reaction that typically lasts for around 20 minutes. So as you can imagine, if you’re sipping all day, your teeth are under constant attack!
Cavities and Tooth Erosion
There are two main effects that soft drink consumption has on your teeth: cavities and tooth erosion.
Erosion starts when acids contained soft drinks come in contact with the tooth enamel, which is the protective layer on your teeth. As time goes on these acids reduce the surface hardness of the tooth enamel.
Sports drinks and many fruit juices can also damage enamel, but the difference is that, as opposed to sodas, they stop there.
Soft drinks can also affect the next layer of the teeth — the dentin — and even composite fillings. The damage that is done to your tooth enamel can then invite cavities. Cavities (commonly referred to as “caries” in dental speak) develop over the course of time in those people who consume soft drinks regularly. And when combined with overall poor oral hygiene, the results can be disastrous, and often times go relatively unnoticed until it’s too late.
What Can I Do?
The obvious solution is to stop drinking soda entirely. Unfortunately, for many of us that’s just a little too tough to do. After all, sodas do taste great, right? Fortunately there are several things that you can do to help minimize the damage that soft drinks do to your teeth:
- Drink in moderation. Don’t consume more than one soft drink on a daily basis. One will do enough damage all by itself!
- Drink sodas quickly. The longer it takes you to consume a soft drink, the more time it has to be a menace to your dental health. Drinking sodas quickly will lessen the time sugars and acids have to wreak havoc on your teeth.
- Use a straw. Using a straw to drink a soda will help to keep damaging acids and sugars away from your teeth.
- Rinse with water. Flushing your mouth with water after drinking a soda will help to wash away any remaining sugars and acids, which in turn helps to stop them from attacking your teeth.
- Don’t brush right away! Contrary to what you may think, brushing your teeth immediately after consuming soda is not the best idea. This is because the friction against your recently acid-attacked teeth can do more harm than good. Remember, your teeth are still highly vulnerable after you’ve taken that last sip. Instead, flush your mouth with water and wait 30 to 60 minutes before brushing.
- Avoid soft drinks prior to bedtime. Not only will the sugars and caffeine (if your soda is not decaffeinated) potentially keep you awake, the sugar and acids will have the entire night to wreak havoc on your teeth!
- Get regular dental checkups and cleanings. Regular visits to your dentist will provide you with thorough cleanings and identify potential problems before they worsen and turn into major problems.
Do you want to learn more about effective ways to take care of your teeth and maintain excellent oral health? Contact our Westchester County dental office in Yonkers today at (914) 476-4040 and speak with one of our friendly dental team members! We’re always here to help!