The average American drinks 45 gallons of sugar-sweetened beverages each year, equating to about 150 to 200 calories in sugary beverages like soda each day, according to the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA). What seems like a harmless daily treat could be taking a huge toll on your body, especially when it comes to your teeth. Understanding how a daily soda habit affects your oral health could help you figure out how to stop drinking soda for good.
Soda and Your Teeth
The problem with soda is that it's packed with sugar: an average 15 to 18 teaspoons per can. When you consume sugar, it coats the teeth while feeding the naturally occurring bacteria that live in your mouth. This can lead to tooth decay and cavities, as explained by the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site, so the fewer sugar-sweetened beverages (like soda) you consume, the better it is for your mouth. Taking baby steps to this end can lead to a more beautiful smile.
1. Start Small
Quitting cold turkey might be a little overwhelming. Simply saying, "I'll never drink soda again" is often too ambitious to follow through with from day one. Instead, set small, incremental goals you know you can reach. If you're a daily soda drinker, make a commitment to go soda-free for a week. When you reach that goal, set another, perhaps for a month. As you set and hit these checkpoints, you'll have the confidence and willpower to make bigger ones – and you'll gradually lose the craving.
2. Swap for Sparkling
If it's the carbonation you crave, swap out your soda for a sparkling mineral water instead. You'll still get the tingling sensation of carbonated soda, only without all the sugar and calories. It might take a few tries to acquire a taste for sparkling water, but it's worth a try if you really prefer the consistency.
3. Flavor Your Water
Think plain water is too boring to drink? It may be the flavor you're after. By flavoring your water with fruits, vegetables and even herbs, you jazz up your usual aqua so you actually want to drink it. Try slicing a few cucumbers and adding them to your water, or mix up lemon slices and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary for a bright, savory water. Citrus works well as a water additive due to its naturally strong flavor.
4. Switch to Green Tea
Drinking soda may simply account for your daily caffeine in the morning, and giving it up can result in a few tired afternoons. But you don't have to ditch caffeine altogether. Instead, brew a cup of green tea: It's packed with antioxidants and has 24 to 45 mg of caffeine to a popular soda's 42 to 55 mg, according to Mayo Clinic. You might even find that green tea doesn't make you as jittery as soda or diet soda, due to their respective sugars.
5. Avoid Triggers
If you're always filling up a cup of soda at the gas station, opt to pay at the pump so you're less likely to buy a beverage. Knowing your triggers, like an afternoon slump or going out to eat, keeps you aware of the situations that spark the craving so you can teach yourself how to avoid that trigger altogether.
If you feel a craving coming on, make a decision in its place to stop yourself from reaching for soda. Pop a piece of gum in your mouth, for instance, or use a mouthwash like Colgate Total® Advanced Pro-Shield™ Mouthwash. The minty flavor will remind you to stay away from sugary drinks, while making soda taste bitter so you're less likely to drink up at a point of craving.
Making the switch from a daily soda habit might be difficult, especially if it's a habit you've indulged for years. But understanding the danger sugary drinks poses to your teeth should be enough to motivate you to learn how to stop drinking soda and take up a healthier choice. Your smile (and maybe even your waistline) will thank you!