Soft drinks and fruit juice are commonly found in our diet today and contain various amounts of sugar. Sugar is the main dietary cause of tooth decay and too much sugar, too often, can lead to dental decay. Thus, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that we should ‘eat only a moderate amount of sugars and foods containing added sugars’ to maintain good oral health.
The conundrum is how to decide on the healthiest option for our teeth; a glass of fruit juice or a glass of soft drink?
What you may not realize is that it just isn’t the sugar that is doing the damage. Juices and soft drinks also contain acids that can dissolve the hard structures of your teeth (enamel), exposing what’s inside, and promoting sensitivity.
Many people drink fruit based drinks to increase their intake of vitamin C. In fact, we can get all the vitamins and nutrients we need by eating a balanced diet with fresh fruit and vegetables. Fruit juices are acidic and in particular, lemon, lime and orange juice contains a very high concentration of citric acid. Citric acid can possibly do more damage to your teeth than other soft drinks. Citric acid acts by softening and eroding tooth enamel. Enamel is the hardest mineral in the boy and is the first line of defense on your teeth. Once damaged, enamel can’t repair itself. Bacteria is then able to penetrate through the eroding enamel to the softer surfaces of the tooth and can cause cavities. Teeth may also become discoloured and stained.
Soft drink is a staple drink of barbeques, parties and some people consume it with every meal. Soft drink is however corrosive to teeth, which is caused by the combination of sugar, phosphoric acid and its staining effect. Phosphoric acid has a very low pH and again has the ability to dissolve and soften teeth enamel thus paving the path to dental decay. Softened tooth enamel may promote plaque formation, which then leads to further tooth erosion. Once the erosion spreads to the underlying dentine, sensitivity and toothaches can occur.
Overconsumption of juices and soft drinks contributes to dental erosion by making the oral cavity more acidic. This in turn provides the perfect environment for harbouring bacteria, which in turn causes dental cavities. We should also be aware that sugar-free soft drink options may contain the same acids as other soft drinks.
Therefore, the next time you reach for a drink, keep the following in mind:
1. Water is the most cost effective and best thirst quencher.
2. Consume other drinks in moderation. Most drinks provide minimal nutritional value, can be acidic and high in sugar.
3. Reduce the acidic effect of drinks by:
- having your drink with a meal
- drink through a straw
- don’t sip or swish around the mouth
- drink water iun between meal times