Choose beverages wisely for good dental health

These days there are a bevy of beverages to choose from when you’re thirsty, from sodas and energy drinks to premium bottled waters and fancy coffees, but is your drink of choice healthful for your teeth and gums?

The ADA recommends that consumers choose beverages that hydrate and contribute to good nutrition. Drinking 8-12 cups of water a day is important and consuming optimally fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay.

More health-conscious consumers are sipping bottled water. One study shows that Americans consumed more than 5 billion gallons of bottled water in 2000, more than double the amount from a decade earlier.

If bottled water is your main source of drinking water, you could be missing the decay-preventive benefits of fluoride provided by many community water systems. (To see if your water system offer optimally fluoridated water, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Other dental-friendly drinks for both kids and adults include beverages that contain at least 50 percent fruit juice with no added sweeteners, low fat milk and non-fat milk.

Even babies and toddlers can develop severe tooth decay—sometimes called baby bottle tooth decay—when the baby’s teeth have frequent, prolonged exposure to liquids that contain sugar, like sweetened water and fruit. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby. The sugary liquids pool around the teeth while the child sleeps. Bacteria in the mouth use these sugars as food. They then produce acids that attack the teeth. Each time your child drinks these liquids, acids attack for 20 minutes or longer. After multiple attacks, the teeth can decay.

The ADA cautions consumers to limit gulping beverages high in added sugars. Some nondiet soft drinks can have as many as 11 teaspoons of sugar per serving and increased dietary sugars can increase the risk of tooth decay. Lots of soft drinks—even diet soft drinks with non-sugar sweeteners—also contain acids that can erode tooth enamel.

Coffee, tea, sports and energy drinks, wine, colas and other sodas are often the culprits behind tooth stains as well. Sipping these drinks through a straw, rinsing and/or brushing after drinking them and regular brushing and dental visits can help keep your pearly whites bright.

Good oral care is vital to preventing tooth decay. The ADA recommends consumers brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, clean between teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner, eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking and visit the dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.

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© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.