The Best and the Worst Beverages for Teeth

September 10, 2020
Avatar for Raul GarciaRaul Garcia

When you think about good and bad things for your health, you can immediately list foods and behaviors such as candy, fast food and smoking as things that are unhealthy. But do you ever think about what you drink and how it can negatively affect the body? What about how what you drink affects your teeth and oral health? We’ve come up with a list of the best and worst drinks for your oral health — and the adverse effects of some of the worst drinks may surprise you! 

The Worst Drinks for Your Teeth

Soda

While soda is one of the most popular drink options in America, it’s also one of the worst beverage choices you could make. This is because soda can significantly damage your tooth enamel with its high sugar and acid content. High levels of sugar feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay and cavities. High levels of acid can contribute to enamel erosion, which can lead to even more tooth decay and increase tooth sensitivity. Tooth enamel starts to dissolve at a pH of 5.5, and sodas and other soft drinks often have pH levels of 2.32 to 5.24 – which is on the more acidic side of the pH scale (the lower the number, the more acidic a substance is)! 

Another problem with soda and other carbonated drinks is that carbonation dries your mouth out by lowering your saliva levels. This is bad for your dental health because saliva plays a critical role in protecting your tooth enamel and your gums. It washes away acid and food debris as well as tooth decay-causing bacteria. 

So, are diet sodas any better for your teeth? No. While diet soda does not have sugar, it is still high in acid and is carbonated. 

Coffee

Do you start your day with a cup — or a few cups — of coffee? If so, you’re like many other Americans, but did you know that your favorite cup of joe is one of the absolute worst things you can drink when it comes to your oral health? Here’s why: Like soda, coffee is high in acid, which erodes your enamel. If you add sugar to your coffee, it can also facilitate tooth decay and cavities. 

Coffee also stains the teeth and is a diuretic, which means it can zap your body and mouth of its moisture. That leads to dry mouth and an increased risk of tooth decay and cavities. 

If you can’t pass up your morning cup, we suggest that you minimize the damage that coffee can cause by drinking plenty of water after drinking coffee and avoiding sugar or sugary creamers. You can also help dilute the acidity of coffee and its effects on your tooth enamel by adding milk to your coffee. 

So, is iced coffee better than regular coffee? Iced coffee is gaining in popularity, but cold brews and iced coffee drinks are not that much better for your teeth. While they may have more milk or cream in them, they’re often very strong, so most people add a lot of sugar or syrups to make them more palatable. 

Tea

Do you like to unwind with a cup of hot tea, or is iced tea more your jam? Hot teas are relatively safe for your oral health because their pH is above 5.5, so they’re significantly less acidic than coffee or sodas. And some research has shown that the polyphenols found in green tea have a positive effect on preventing tooth decay and gum disease

But, if iced tea is more your thing, you may have cause for concern. This is because iced tea has a very low (acidic) pH — around 2.5 to 3.5. Like acidic coffees and sodas, iced tea can erode enamel. 

If you’re grabbing a sweet tea, you’re also at risk of tooth decay and cavities because of the high sugar content. Bottled teas can also contain more sugar than soda.

So, instead of iced tea, we suggest sitting down with a cup of green tea. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water, as tea is a diuretic like coffee and can contribute to dry mouth. 

Alcohol

Like tea and coffee, alcohol is a diuretic and can cause dehydration of both the body and the mouth, which leads to less saliva. As we mentioned above, less saliva in the mouth means more possible damage to tooth enamel. Weakened tooth enamel also means an increase in tooth sensitivity. 

Some forms of alcohol, such as red wine, can contribute to tooth staining. 

So, is white wine a viable substitute? While white wine won’t cause staining, it is actually more acidic than red white and can contribute to even more enamel erosion. 

Sports Drinks

While many sports drinks are advertised as a way to stay healthy during and after workouts, sports drinks aren’t that good for your oral health. This is because they are loaded with sugar and high in acid, which we already mentioned can damage teeth and gums. In fact, many sports drinks have more acid than sodas. Some sports drinks contain more sugar than cola — more than 19 grams of sugar per serving. Yikes! 

Sports drinks also have higher sodium levels, which can be unhealthy if you’re drinking them often. 

A 2019 study by University College of London found that elite athletes, despite having excellent overall health, often had worse oral health than the general public, due to their use of sports drinks and other recovery products like sports gels. 

So, what should you reach for after a workout or game? Plain water! Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces per day. 

Carbonated Water

Do you love carbonated water or club sodas? These drinks have become increasingly popular among people who are looking to give up soda. While carbonated water is better as it is generally sugar-free, it still has some negatives. 

One of those negatives is that it is acidic and can lead to enamel erosion. It can also cause dehydration and dry mouth. 

So, what’s a good alternative to carbonated water? Plain, flat water. We also recommend that you drink tap water to get the benefits of fluoride over bottled water. Need flavor added to your water to help make it more palatable? Try infusing your water with your favorite fruit! 

Fruit Juices

Juice is healthy, right? It comes from fruit, so it should be good for you! While fruit juice in moderation is OK, even the options that are 100 percent juice are full of sugar. Concentrated juices are also extremely high in acid. This means you could have weakened tooth enamel, sensitive teeth and gum health issues if you’re consuming juice daily. 

So, if you’re going to drink fruit juice, we recommend that you dilute it with water (50/50) to help reduce acid and sugar content.

Energy Drinks

Do you find that you need an energy drink or two to make it through your day? Although they can give you a boost, energy drinks can also give you problems with your oral and overall health. High levels of sugar and acid are incredibly damaging to your teeth. 

The high amounts of acid found in energy drinks can also be damaging to your stomach and cause acid reflux, which puts your teeth at risk because of acid erosion. 

So, instead of reaching for energy drinks, we recommend that you talk to your doctor about the potential for health issues, including sleep apnea, a sleep breathing disorder with serious health consequences.

Best Drinks for Oral Health?

Water

If you haven’t guessed it by now, we recommend water over every other beverage. Water not only is nonacidic, doesn’t have sugar and doesn’t stain your teeth, but it is also essential for your body and overall health. The more water you drink, the more hydrated you are, and that means plenty of saliva to help defend your teeth and gums against acids and bacteria. 

So, are you drinking enough water? There are apps available for your phone to set reminders to sip! 

Milk

Milk is also a healthy drink option for your teeth and oral health. Here’s why: It is full of calcium, which helps to fortify your tooth enamel against tooth decay and bacteria.  

While milk is full of calcium, it’s also full of natural sugar. As a result, we recommend that you do not leave children or babies with a bottle of milk for long periods, as these sugars feed the bacteria that contribute to tooth decay. 

So, what if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan? Try calcium-fortified alternative milk, such as soy or almond. 

Want to learn more about the effects of what you drink on your oral health, or are you seeing the signs of damage to your tooth enamel? Call us today for an appointment. 

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