Many people are aware of the damage sugary drinks can do to your teeth. Did you know that acidic drinks also pose a risk? We’re here to help you get informed on why acidic beverages are harmful to your teeth, what the biggest offenders are, and how to avoid potential damage.
How Acidic Drinks Affect Your Teeth
Acidic drinks are loved by many but can be tough on your teeth if consumed regularly. A drink's acidity level is determined by how much acid it contains from citrus or other additives. The pH scale measures this trait, but what pH is bad for your teeth? Any pH level below 7.0 is considered acidic, and the lower the number, the more harmful to your teeth.
Enamel is the strong outer layer that protects your teeth. Acidic drinks can wear enamel down, weakening it and causing long-term tooth erosion. It's essential to care for your teeth because tooth erosion is permanent. Enamel isn't a living cell and doesn't naturally repair itself as your skin does.
There are several side-effects of improper enamel care. The Indian Dental Association explains that during self examination watch out for dull white bands / demineralisation which first appear as dull white bands on the smooth surface of the tooth at the gum line. This is an indicative of early decay or weakened enamel.
Consuming acidic drinks could lead to:
- Tooth pain
- Tooth sensitivity (to hot, cold, and air)
- Discoloration of your teeth
- Increased risk of cavities
- Abscesses or loss of teeth (in extreme cases)
If you don't take care of your enamel, you may require more advanced dental care like a filling, crown, root canal, or tooth extraction.
Fun fact: Your enamel is the strongest material in the human body. It is even stronger than your bones.
It might surprise you how many drinks are acidic and pose a risk to your enamel's health. Even beverages that offer health benefits like fruit juice can be tough on your teeth. Any flavour or type of drink can be acidic, depending on the ingredients, additives, and formulation.
It's essential to remember that even sugar-free drinks can be acidic. Carbonation raises every drink's acidity, so any bubbly beverage is likely to be harmful to your dental health over time.
Is acidic coffee bad for your teeth? Is sugar-free soda okay? Let's take a look.
Here are some acidic drinks to avoid:
- Tea, both hot and cold
- Carbonated drinks
- Alcohol, especially wine
- Juice, especially those high in citrus
- Sports drinks
- Soda and soft drinks (even sugar-free types)
We recommend using moderation when consuming acidic drinks as the first step to protect your smile.
Even though your enamel will not regenerate, saliva does a great job maintaining your teeth' hard outer layer. Letting saliva do its job and consuming items that stimulate saliva production can give you the best chance to fight against acid and erosion.
Every type of acidic drink will cause tooth erosion over time. The more acidic the substance, the more damage it will cause. With this in mind, completely cutting acidic beverages from your diet is the only way to avoid adverse effects altogether. Not to worry, there are still ways to lower the amount of damage done when you consume acidic beverages.
Tips to protect your teeth from acidic drinks:
- Use moderation: Many people will consume acidic drinks on occasion, so it's vital to limit the amount you drink.
- Rinse with water: Tap or bottled water can wash away acids left in your mouth from other drinks. Consider rinsing with water after enjoying an acidic drink to limit the amount of damage it can do.
- Reach for a straw: Straws can help acidic drinks go past your teeth and down your throat. Straws can be helpful but won't prevent all the dental erosion from acidic beverages.
- Don't brush right after drinking: Reaching for your toothbrush too quickly after a drink can make things worse. According to the Indian Dental Association, acids temporarily soften the tooth surface (demineralisation), don't brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking something acidic (or vomiting), as the softened enamel will be further damaged by the brushing and that will speed up the process of erosion. Wait at least an hour to allow calcium in saliva to repair tooth enamel after the acid exposure.
- Build healthy habits: While it can be challenging to make changes to your routine, doing so will have lasting effects on your dental health. Buying a reusable water bottle can be a convenient way to establish a new habit to avoid acidic drinks and save money.
- Consume dairy: Dairy products provide a protective film on enamel to prevent cavities.
- Chew sugar-free gum: This easy option can promote saliva production. Saliva is healthy for your teeth because it removes some of the acids and even repairs enamel.
- Practice good dental hygiene: We recommend brushing your teeth for two minutes twice daily to limit decay and cavities. Also, be sure to use floss, an interdental brush, or a water flosser to clean between teeth once a day.
- Talk to your dentist: When in doubt, consulting with an expert is the safest option. Your dentist can advise dietary choices for your long-term dental health.
While we've provided some easy tips to limit the damage caused by acidic drinks, there's no way to prevent it entirely. Restricting your consumption of these drinks is the best bet for your dental health. Luckily, you've done a great job learning about tooth erosion caused by acidic drinks and are now prepared to make changes to your diet and build new habits.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.