Monday, April 27, 2009

Worst Beverages for your Teeth

Ranked from #1 - #6

1) Lemonade

Lemonade is a dangerous combination of acid and sugar. The formula for tooth decay is: bacteria that cause cavities (which we ALL have in our mouth, yes, dentists included) + acid (to penetrate the hard enamel layer of the teeth) + sugar (what the bacteria feed on) = tooth decay. Lemons are one of the most acidic fruits there are. Combining this acidic fruit with sugar makes it a potent cavity causer.

Many of you have asked if a lemon slice in your water is bad. This is certainly not nearly as bad as lemonade because there isn't sugar involved, but it does make your water more acidic.

2) Energy Drinks (Red Bull, Rooster Booster, Full Throttle, etc.)

These are the newest latest craze in beverage consumption and these drinks are giving you more energy by ramping up the sugar and caffeine. Caffeine isn't hard on teeth, but these beverages are still harder on teeth than soda.

3) Sports Drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc)

People tell me all the time that they have cut down their soda consumption thanks to some of the "Stop the Pop" information we've had around the office. Unfortunately when I ask them what they switched to, it's almost ALWAYS Gatorade/Powerade. Gatorade/Powerade's marketing leads you to believe this is a healthier choice than soda, they always show images of it being good for replenishing you after a hard day or working or working out, and it doesn't have a fizz , or caffeine.

What they DO have in them though are additives and organic acids not found in soda that are very erosive to dental enamel because of their ability to breakdown calcium which is needed to strengthen teeth. And if this can harm your dental enamel think of what it may do to your bones, which are much softer than dental enamel.

4) Fitness Water (Propel, etc.)

"Wait a minute, you're saying water is bad too?" Well, no, fitness water has the same organic acids as the Gatorade (they are made by the same companies) and therefore do significant damage even without the sugar component. In many ways, fitness water is just diet Gatorade.

5) Iced Tea (sweetened is even worse)

I got some new information about iced tea recently which may please some of you. It seems that the canned iced teas are much worse than a home brewed iced tea (especially if you aren't adding a lot of sugar). I cannot find what about the canned iced teas makes them worse, but that is what the literature has to say. Part of this could be that Lipton/Snapple adds a lot more sugar to tea than you would at home. So if you are brewing your own tea and not adding sugar, it isn't bad for teeth. As a side note though, this has no basis in science, but it seems I see the WORST stains on people's teeth that tell me they consume Green Tea (which is a very healthy tea).

6) Soft Drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, 7-up, etc.)

Most sodas have the following ingredients listed right on the can: Phosphoric Acid and High Fructose Corn Syrup (sugar). That pretty well sums it up, you are drinking a combination of acid and sugar, and that is what leads to tooth decay. The average 12 oz. can of soda has TEN teaspoons of sugar.

Diet Soda - Diet Soda does not have sugar, but does still have the same amount of phosphoric acid. Meaning its less bad, but still not great.

Clear Soda - For some reason it is perceived that Sprite, 7-Up, Fresca, etc. are a "healthier" choice than Coca-Cola or Pepsi. It is better in the sense that it won't stain your teeth, but they still have all the acid and all the sugar. It is not a healthier choice at all.

Alcoholic beverages - I was amused by those who wrote to thank me that beer wasn't on the list. And it's true, beer doesn't have sugar, and is significantly less acidic than soda/gatorade.

Wine is very acidic, it is probably the worst alcoholic beverages for teeth, especially since it is generally sipped over long periods of time (more on this in a minute).

Tonic Water is a pretty popular mixer for various spirits. People often forget this is basically a soda pop as well. It's sugary, and acidic. Consider Club Soda as a substitute, it's calorie free too.

The Margarita is another very acidic beverage with a lot of sugar in it as well.

The Missouri Dental Association (MDA) has been very proactive about helping kids and adults make healthy choices for their teeth. In fact, they started a program that other states have began to mimic called "Stop the Pop".

There is a wealth of information at the MDA website about stop the pop, including fun projects for children if you are involved in education.

An easy-to-read excellent brochure is here.

The article I took the following information from can be read here.

Hey, I really enjoy these beverages and can't quit. Now What?

Here are some tips for safely enjoying these beverages in moderation

1) Drink through a straw, it avoids the teeth a bit more that way.

2) Don't brush IMMEDIATELY after drinking the beverage. The enamel is a bit softer for 20-30 minutes after consuming a soda and your toothbrush could actually accelerate the wear. Wait a bit.

3) Don't sip all day.. just drink it! When you drink an acidic beverage the acid level (or pH) of your mouth drops. It takes your mouth about 20-30 minutes for that to recover. When you sip a beverage for hours, like the people that get a big gulp from a convenient store and then drink on it all day, the acid level of your mouth stays low ALL day, creating an optimum environment for the bacteria in your mouth that do cause cavities to work away on your teeth.

You would be better off (teeth wise) chugging a large soda fast, than sipping on a small glass all day.

4) Drink and rinse your mouth with water after consuming the beverage.

Think of this: Thousands of years ago humans didn't get many cavities. Wild animals don't get cavities with much frequency. Neither of these creatures has any better tooth enamel than we do, and certainly don't benefit from great toothbrushes, paste, and dental visits. Why? They consume meat, plants/vegetables, and drink water. With all the advances in oral health care, fluoride, sealants, xylitol, etc. you'd think we'd have tooth decay all but eliminated. Unfortunately what has kept that from happening is that the American diet includes over 100 lbs. of sugar every year, and people are drinking everything BUT water. Poor diet has more to do with tooth decay than inadequate personal oral care. The United States has a higher decay rate than other developed nations, but we have the best oral health care in the world. Why? We also consume the most soda, candy, and other sugary products.

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