If you’ve been hard at work or play outside in these hot summer months, you’ve probably developed quite a thirst. If your first instinct is to reach for a can of soda to quench that thirst, you might want to think again. Soda is a drink that can wreak havoc on your teeth. It seems that more and more people are recognizing that fact, as annual sales of soda continue to slowly decline year after year, recently reaching a 30-year low. Even with that, though, the soda industry still racks up annual sales well into the tens of billions and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. So, what makes soda so dangerous for your smile? The answer lies mainly in its high sugar content. The average can of soda can contain somewhere between 30 and 40 grams of sugar. That sugar can turn your mouth into a war zone of bacteria and acid that can destroy your teeth by causing some nasty side effects.
When you take a drink of your soda, that shot of liquid brings with it a significant amount of sugar. The sugar enters and reacts with the bacteria in your mouth to form acid. That acid immediately goes to work on the enamel coating of your teeth, causing it to weaken. The more soda you drink, the greater the onslaught, and even though enamel is the strongest substance in the human body, the continual acid blitz eventually starts to break it down, making it more susceptible to damage.
In addition to the sugar, most sodas--including diet sodas--contain acids of their own, which also attack the enamel and cause it to lose integrity. This continuous attack can cause the enamel to slowly alter its appearance as it weakens, becoming translucent around the edges, causing the tooth to appear dented and uneven in appearance, and even turning an unsightly yellow. It can also cause your teeth to become more sensitive, as the enamel serves as a protective coating around the nerves inside your tooth. A weaker enamel means those nerves are more susceptible to sensations of hot or cold, which can make it more difficult to eat your favorite meals, snacks, and desserts.
The enamel on your teeth does more than protect your teeth from extreme temperatures; it’s also the main line of defense against tooth decay. However, as the enamel grows weak, it leaves your teeth open to attack, which eventually leads to cavities. The cavities come as sugar and other food particles settle on your teeth, causing plaque. This plaque serves as a continuous buffet for bacteria in your mouth, which feed on the plaque and slowly dig their way into the enamel. The holes they leave behind are cavities, and they can lead to expensive dental work to fix the problems.
The sugar and food particles that lead to plaque can come from anything that you eat or drink, but much of it will come in the form of soda. So, not only does that soda introduce the sugar which weakens the enamel, leaving it vulnerable, but it also provides the sugar that gives bacteria the opportunity to take advantage of that vulnerability and penetrate down deep into the tooth. In and of itself, soda is a virtual one-two punch that leads to enamel erosion and tooth decay.
What You Can Do
The good news it, there are things you can do to avoid this problem. By using common sense and taking a few precautions, you can lessen the damage that soda can do to your teeth.
- Stop Drinking Soda
While this might seem obvious, it definitely needs to be mentioned first. The best and most effective way to stop the damage is to put down that soda and pick up something else instead. Be careful, though: some drinks that you think might be better for your teeth, like energy drinks, can actually contain as much, if not more, sugar. So make sure to learn about the sugar content of your favorite choices before you decide.
- Use a Straw
If you do insist on drinking soda, a straw can help by directing the drink to the back of your mouth, avoiding much of your teeth altogether. The back teeth will still be vulnerable, but overall this will help to avoid some of the damage.
- Drink Water Afterwards
Because the damage begins with acid, doing something to change the pH in your mouth can help. In this case, drinking some water (or even just rinsing your mouth out) afterwards can help to dilute the acid in your mouth and change the pH level, neutralizing much of the acid before it can go to work.
Of course, good oral hygiene in general is also important for keeping your teeth healthy, so make sure you brush and floss regularly. By keeping these steps in mind, you can reduce or eliminate the risks that soda poses for your teeth. Keeping those teeth healthy is just one more way to ensure that you keep that dazzling smile.