Why Soda and Energy Drinks are Terrible for Your Teeth?

The Impact of Soda and Energy Drinks on Your Teeth

Before you pop the top on another can of your favorite soft drink, soda, & energy drink, you might want to stop and think about the harm you’re doing to your teeth and smile.

The sugars in soft drinks interact with bacteria in your mouth to form acid, which attacks your teeth. Add that to the acids normally contained in regular and sugar-free sodas, and you’re starting a damaging reaction that lasts for about 20 minutes. If you sip all day, your teeth are under constant attack.

Sugar causes tooth decay

OK, so this really isn’t big news — everyone knows sugar is implicated in cavities. But do you know how it works? When sugar coats your teeth, the bacteria in your mouth start feasting on it. As they break down the sugar, the bacteria create acids which eat away at the tooth surface. It’s the acids, not the sugar itself, that cause decay.

Acid eats tooth enamel

When an acidic food or drink dissolves the outer surface of teeth, it’s called dental erosion — a chemical reaction that has nothing to do with bacteria. When you drink soda or another acidic beverage, the surfaces of your teeth begin to soften and dissolve immediately.

And the scary thing is, the damage is irreversible. Tooth enamel isn’t like skin or the soft tissues in your mouth, which can grow back after minor damage. When tooth enamel is gone, it doesn’t regenerate. Signs of dental erosion are tooth sensitivity to hot and cold, and a yellowing or darkening of the teeth as the white enamel wears away.

What makes soda acidic?

Soda gets its fizz from dissolving carbon dioxide in cold water under pressure to create carbonic acid. Two other acids in soda are phosphoric acid and citric acid, which are added as preservatives and flavor enhancers.

Citric acid is especially problematic: It can bind to calcium and leach it out of teeth. Another type, malic acid, is added to diet sodas, as well as sports drinks, fruit juices, and iced teas.

A Study comparing the impact of energy drinks on teeth found that the acidity levels in energy drinks vs. sports drinks and soda were twice as high. The acidity causes the pH balance in your mouth to plummet to as low as 2 on the pH scale (healthy oral pH balance should be 6.8-7). Even worse, once the pH balance is lowered, it can take your body up to 30 minutes to go back to its normal level. With every sip of your energy drink, your teeth are basically being bathed in acid. 

To give you an idea of how much acid and sugar are in some of your favorite drinks, consider the following numbers:

  • Barq’s Root Beer: acidity of 4; 11 teaspoons of sugar
  • Red Bull® Energy Drink: acidity of 3.3; 10 teaspoons of sugar
  • Sprite®: acidity of 3.3; 10 teaspoons of sugar
  • Mountain Dew: acidity of 3.3; 12 teaspoons of sugar
  • Dr. Pepper: acidity of 2.9; 10 teaspoons of sugar
  • Pepsi: acidity of 2.5; 11 teaspoons of sugar
  • Coca-Cola: acidity of 2.4; 10 teaspoons of sugar

If you enjoy drinking soda or energy drink, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of damage to your teeth.

  • Don’t sip all day: Constant exposure to the sugars and acids in soft drinks means your mouth can’t restore its natural pH balance.
  • Lessen direct exposure to soda: The faster you drink, the less time the sugars and acids have to damage your teeth. You can also drink using a straw, which delivers the soda to the back of your mouth.
  • Rinse your mouth with water: Flushing your mouth with some water after drinking soda will help wash away any remaining sugars and acids, stopping them from attacking your teeth.
  • Wait before you brush: Despite what you may think, brushing your teeth immediately after you have a soda isn’t a good idea. That’s because the friction against the vulnerable and recently acid-attacked teeth can do more harm than good. Wait about an hour before brushing.
  • Avoid soft drinks before bedtime: Not only will the sugar likely keep you up, but the sugar and acid will have all night to attack your teeth.
  • Drink soda with food: Drink a soft drink with a meal when there’s a lot of saliva to break down the acid.
  • Get regular dental checkups and cleanings: Your dentist can spot any problems before they worsen. A professional teeth cleaning will remove plaque and bacteria buildup that promotes decay.

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