Statistics show that the average American consumes 38 gallons of soda each year. More than half of international respondents to a survey stated that they drink soda several times a week, if not every single day. Not only is this truly terrible for your overall health; it is extremely damaging to your teeth.
Sodas are full of sugar. The average twelve-ounce serving of soda contains almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. Imagine measuring out ten teaspoons of sugar into your coffee or tea! Most people would consider that to be crazy, and yet, that’s exactly what you do when you drink a soda.
The sugar that is present in a soda is the simplest type of carbohydrate possible, which makes it the easiest for cavity-causing bacteria to digest. It is the most readily available form of sugar for these bacteria, meaning it is the most likely to cause cavities.
Because of the liquid nature of sodas, they are more likely to cause cavities between the teeth, where food is unlikely to go as easily. The sugar in liquid soda can easily get to the bacteria living in the plaque between your teeth. When you drink soda constantly, you feed the bad bacteria and enable them to produce dangerous, enamel-dissolving acids so that they can work their way into your tooth. That is the cavity-forming process. Sugar feeds bacteria, which produce acid that dissolves enamel.
Not only are sodas extremely high in sugar content, they have an extremely low, or acidic, pH. Most sodas have a pH in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 on the pH scale. For reference, lemon juice is about 2.0, and battery acid is about 1.0. Everyone knows that battery acid is dangerous and can eat through many different surfaces. The acidic pH of soda makes it dangerous for your teeth.
As we explained in the previous section regarding how a cavity forms, acid is an instrumental part of the cavity process. The bacteria cause cavities through the acid they produce. The fact that sodas are so acidic gives them even more power to cause cavities by lowering the pH in the mouth and weakening enamel. Studies show that enamel begins to soften (or demineralize) at a pH just below 5.5 on the pH scale.
Sodas are much lower than that. Therefore, they produce an environment in the mouth that is more conducive to cavity formation. They lead to weak enamel that cannot fight the acid attacks of bacteria very well.
Another problem with sodas is that many people prefer to sip on them for long stretches of time. The “big gulp” and “Route 44” fountain drinks not only increase the amount of sugar you drink; they also increase the likelihood that you will drink it over a long period of time.
When you drink something acidic, the mouth slowly returns to a neutral pH over a few minutes if you have normal saliva function. Each time you take a sip, you hit your mouth with another punch of acid. If this occurs constantly throughout the day, the overall pH of your mouth stays in the acidic range. By slowly sipping on sodas, you keep the pH below the 5.5 threshold for enamel damage, and it weakens and softens, leading to a high risk for cavities.
The only thing worse for your teeth than drinking sodas is sipping them all day long!
What You Should Do
The very best thing you can do is to stop drinking sodas. In addition to the dangerous effects on teeth, they also increase your risk for diabetes, chronic inflammation, and GI problems. They carry zero nutritional benefits at all. There is nothing good about soda except its taste.
You can definitely lower your risk for cavities by cutting sodas out completely!
What to Do if You Don’t Want to Stop Drinking Soda
We really want you to quit. But if you don’t think you can, here are some tips to lower your cavity risk and still enjoy a soda every once in a while.
- Drink Fast.
The longer you sip on soda, the higher your risk for cavities will be. When you shorten the drinking time, you lower the risk by allowing your mouth to come back to a neutral pH and stay there.
- Drink it With a Meal.
When you drink your soda with a meal, you are fighting the acid in the soda with a higher production of saliva. Saliva is slightly alkaline (or just above neutral on the pH scale), and it counteracts acid. When you eat food, your body increases the amount of saliva it produces. So by drinking the soda with a meal, you lower its impact on your teeth.
- Follow Up with Water.
After drinking a soda, quickly rinse your mouth with plain tap water. This will help quickly neutralize the pH and flush away any lingering soda between the teeth.
- Chew Sugar-Free Gum.
Chewing gum is similar to eating food. It increases the body’s production of saliva, especially if it has a strong flavor. Our favorite sugar-free gum is Ice Cubes. Not only does it come in many great flavors; it contains two grams of xylitol per piece. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that does not allow bacteria to cause cavities.
- Up Your Flossing Game.
Cavities can only happen when bacteria digests sugar. We have talked a lot about addressing the sugar and acid factors in soda. This tactic addresses the bacteria themselves. Cavity-causing bacteria live in dental plaque, which loves to clump together between the teeth.
Flossing dislodges and removes dental plaque from the teeth, lowering the amount of bad, cavity-causing bacteria present. When you get rid of bacteria, you lower your risk for getting cavities.
More Questions about Sodas?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our Ohio dental experts. We will assess your specific risk factors and help you make great choices to lower your risk for getting new cavities.