Soft Drinks: Not So Soft On Your Teeth

As the temperature rises and thirst switches to ‘unbearable’ mode, do you reach out for a bottle of soft drink, iced tea or water?

Soft drinks have climbed up the ladder and became one of the most significant dietary sources of cavities, affecting people of all ages. A pilot study by the Academy of General Dentistry showed that over time, exposure to both carbonated drinks and non-carbonated canned iced tea weakens and permanently destroys tooth enamel.

Soft drinks are non-alcoholic, carbonated beverages containing natural or artificial flavorings, sweeteners and other ingredients. These include soda or pop, juice drinks and sports drinks. The sugar contained in soft drinks is converted into acid by the bacteria in plaque - this leads to tooth decay.

In severe cases, softer enamel combined with improper oral hygiene, teeth grinding or other conditions can lead to tooth loss.

Facts: What do we know about soft drinks?

  • A typical 12-ounce can of regular soda contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Sugar-free drinks, which account for only 14% of all soft drink consumption in the US, are less harmful. However, they are acidic and can still cause problems.
  • The phosphorus content of soft drinks may reduce calcium absorption and contribute to osteoporosis.
  • People who consume sugary drinks regularly—1 to 2 cans a day or more—have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks.
  • A 22-year study of 80,000 women found that those who consumed a can a day of sugary drink had a 75% higher risk of gout than women who rarely had such drinks.
  • People who drink sugared drinks do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food and do not compensate by eating less.
  • A 20-year study on 120,000 men and women found that people who increased their sugary drink consumption by one 12-ounce serving per day gained more weight over time—on average, an extra pound every 4 years—than people who did not change their intake.
  • A study that followed 40,000 men for 20 years found that those who averaged a daily can of a sugary beverage had a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consumed sugary drinks.

What can we do about it?

  • Do not stock your pantries and refrigerators with sugared drinks. Keep beverages with less sugar like water, milk and 100% fruit juice. Encourage a ‘drink healthy’ attitude among your kids.
  • Make sure to thoroughly rinse your mouth with water to remove traces of sugared fluids that can later expose your tooth enamel to acids.
  • Don’t brush too soon after consumption of soft drinks. Wait for at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
  • If you must, drink soft drinks only at meal time. Finish meals with something to neutralize acids like milk, cheese or chew sugar-free gum.
  • Use fluoride toothpastes. Fluoride reduces cavities and strengthens tooth enamel.
  • Those who have cavities & gum diseases can ask their dentists if they require over-the-counter mouthwashes or fluoride treatments.
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