Did you know that each time you take a sip of a soft drink or other sugary beverage, the sugar in the cold, sweet liquid attaches itself to the naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth and produces an acid? In small amounts, this acid is relatively harmless, but over time, with repeated or unmoderated consumption of sugary drinks, this acid can erode your tooth enamel, making your teeth weak and susceptible to breaking. This acid can also cause cavities. In fact, the steady consumption of sugary drinks is the most common dietary cause of tooth decay.
So what can you do if you love sugary drinks but are concerned about maintaining a healthy smile? Here are our top 5 tips for maintaining your smile while still indulging in your favorite sugary beverage.
1. Moderate sugary drink consumption. This has to said first! If you are consuming less sugar, your risk for enamel erosion, cavities, and tooth decay decreases. If you cut soft drinks out altogether, your risk decreases even more--and we’ll give your our Patient of the Year Award! We realize a complete abandoning of sugary drinks is not a likelihood for most people, and that’s okay. But from your dentist, please remember--all things in moderation!
2. Brush and floss. At-home oral hygiene is of the utmost importance always, but if you find yourself enjoying (more than) a few soft drinks each week, it is even more imperative that you brush and floss daily. For best results, brush and floss after each meal. An electric toothbrush like the Philips Sonicare can be especially effective for a deep clean. In addition to brushing and flossing, mouthwash can rinse away sugar and acids, as well as leave your breath minty fresh.
3. Drink through a straw. While consuming sugary drinks, keep the sugar away from your teeth and gums by using a straw and positioning it further back in your mouth--avoiding the most susceptible parts of your mouth altogether. A straw can also help with teeth discoloration if staining is a concern from soft drinks. As a concern for the environment and to reduce waste, many patients purchase a reusable straw or set of straws that they wash and have available as needed.
4. Drink lots of water. Water is great for you, and it rinses your mouth out when you drink it. Just like water with meals can keep food from sticking to your teeth, a glass of water following a soft drink can rinse the sugar from your mouth and prevent further acid formation. In addition to keeping you hydrated and being great for your mind and body, water is great for your smile. Go ahead and fill your bottle now!
5. Add calcium to your diet. What you learned in elementary school is still correct--calcium is necessary for proper teeth health and function. For the health of your teeth, enjoy a tall glass of milk with lunch or in your breakfast cereal. Whether you prefer soy, almond, rice, or good old fashioned dairy, check the label for calcium content, and opt for higher percentages. If you’re not interested in drinking your calcium, broccoli and other dark leafy greens are great sources, as is tofu, okra, almonds, and canned fish. Calcium chews are also available for those who need a little extra calcium supplemented to their diet.