Most folks are aware that sugary snacks and candies can have an adverse effect on your oral health. Harmful bacteria grow and feed on sugar, and if you have a tried-and-true sweet tooth and don’t keep after your oral health, it’s likely you’ll end up with a cavity or two (or worse).
Since you were a kid, you’ve learned that you should always brush your teeth before bed, and should get an extra brushing in after sugary snacks. But can sugary drinks also affect your oral health? It’s just liquid, so can it get in between your teeth like chocolate or candy?
The answer is a resounding “yes.” In fact, sugary drinks can almost be worse for your teeth because patients tend not to think of sugary drinks as bad for them.
How Sugary Drinks Affect Oral Health
Let’s take a look at the facts about sugary drinks and oral health:
- Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth using sugar to produce acids that damage the teeth
- Even “low sugar” drinks have quite a lot of sugar! Plus, even “sugar free” drinks often have sugar substitutes or other sweeteners in them…and bacteria don’t know the difference between “real” and “fake” sugar.
- Diet soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices, juice boxes and even many alcoholic beverages have high levels of sugar, chemical sweeteners or sugar substitutes
- Regular erosion or damage of the tooth enamel from sugary drinks can cause decay and cavities
- Even if you take good care of your teeth and have your cavities filled, preventing enamel loss altogether is important for the long-term health of your teeth
Start to think through just how many sugary beverages you consume per day. Each one of these beverages cause “acid attacks” in your mouth that can last up to twenty minutes if you don’t brush immediately after your sugary drink. And that’s if you drink pretty quickly and in one sitting! Most folks tend to sip their sugary drinks, though, which can cause repeat attacks after each new sip.
How to Protect Your Teeth From Sugary Drinks
So what can you do to protect your teeth and boost your oral health when drinking sugary drinks? Here are some of our best tips:
- Take some time to understand how many sugary drinks you consume per day or week. You might want to keep a note or tally. Read ingredients carefully…even that “healthy” drink you love might be full of sugars or artificial sweeteners (remember, bacteria can’t tell the difference between “real” and “fake” sugar!).
- If possible, cut back to as few sugary drinks as possible, or cut them out all together.
- If it’s not possible to cut sugary drinks out completely, try to limit yourself to one per day, and always brush right after
- If you’re not able to brush after a sugary drink, rinse your mouth with water as soon as possible to dilute the sugars
- Always brush and floss twice a day
- Maintain your regular dental teeth cleaning exams
Adults and kids should pay close attention to how many sugary drinks they’re drinking, and how often. While these drinks are often fun and enjoyable, try to limit them like you would other sugary foods and candies. This step might be tough if you’re a hard-core diet soda drinker, but you can do it and your teeth will thank you!
Remember: The above information is to be used as general guidelines and should not be substituted for medical advice. Contact our skilled dentists for a dental exam or professional medical advice.
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