According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly half of American adults drink one sugary soda a day. Sodas are packed with sugar and acids, which can damage your teeth. One soda a day can also add up to almost 1,000 extra calories per week, contributing to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Soda can be an indulgent treat, but it can harm oral health and wellbeing. Learn why soda can damage your teeth and our tips for quitting soda.
How to Stop Drinking Soda: Six Ways To Kick Your Soda Habit and Improve Your Oral Health
Soft drinks have been linked to tooth decay for people of all ages. The acids and acidic sugar ingredients in soft drinks can soften tooth enamel, contributing to cavities. In extreme cases, if the enamel damage has not been treated, grinding of the teeth or other conditions can lead to tooth loss.
When you consume sugary soft drinks, the sugar coats the teeth and feeds the bacteria that live in your mouth. This results in acid production, which can damage tooth enamel, so the fewer sugar-sweetened beverages (like soda) you consume, the better it is for your mouth. However, sugar-free drinks aren't perfect, either. Even if a soda doesn't have sugar, it can contain those acidic ingredients that damage enamel.
If you want to take a step toward a healthier lifestyle, quitting soda drinking doesn't have to be painful! You can take several small steps to beat the habit, leading to a healthier smile and less sugar in your diet.
1. Start Small
Like any habit, quitting cold turkey isn't as successful as gradual progress. Setting ambitious or unrealistic goals can lead to shame and bigger indulgences when you slip short of your goal. Instead, set small, incremental goals that are challenging yet reachable. If you're a daily soda drinker, set a goal to drink soda only 2-3 times a week. When you reach that goal, set a goal for a week, and so on. As you set and achieve these goals, you'll have the confidence and willpower to make bigger ones – and you'll gradually lose the craving.
2. Swap soda for sparkling water
If it's the carbonation you crave, swap out your soda for sparkling water instead. These refreshing and bubbly drinks don't have the acidic ingredients or sugar to wear down your tooth enamel. And no calories! Sparkling water or seltzers can be an acquired taste, but they can satisfy those carbonation cravings.
3. Add flavor to your water
Perhaps sipping plain water doesn't sound appealing. Fortunately, there are many options for flavors. You can purchase pre-flavored water on the shelf; just watch for sugar, calories, and acidic ingredients! Or you can infuse water yourself. Slice up cucumbers and lemons, and infuse them in a pitcher of water in your fridge. You can also add herbs like rosemary, citrus fruits, or berries.
4. Switch to green tea
If you rely on your daily sodas for caffeine, quitting soda may be difficult and lead to headaches and tiredness. But you don't have to ditch caffeine when you ditch the soda. You should try green tea! Green tea is packed with antioxidants and has up to 28 mg of caffeine, compared to soda's 22 mg, according to Mayo Clinic. Also, by drinking unsweetened green tea, you won't have the typical sugar crash.
5. Avoid triggers
Breaking any habit can be difficult. Be mindful of when and where you tend to drink soda. If you always grab a soda at the gas station when you fill up, perhaps pay at the pump instead to avoid the temptation. If you always choose soda at a restaurant, order ahead, take your food to-go, or ask for your date to order water for you, so you don't order soda by habit.
If you feel a craving, stop yourself from reaching for soda and reach for better options like sparkling water or green tea.
6. Use fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse
Fluoride can reduce cavities and strengthen tooth enamel, so brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste reduces soda's effects. If you indulge in a sip of soda, promptly rinse your mouth with water or a mouthwash to remove traces of the drink that can prolong tooth enamel exposure to acids. Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash can also help. Talk to your dental hygienist at your next appointment and ask them for recommendations on fluoride dental products.
Quitting soda can be difficult, especially if you have been drinking soda daily for years. But understanding how soda can damage your teeth and health and knowing these tips for quitting soda can set you in a new, healthy direction.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.