Soft drinks have really gotten a bad rap recently, and it’s no wonder. Sodas are low in nutrients but high in empty calories, and drinking multiple sodas every day is associated with a higher risk of diabetes and obesity.
But if that’s not enough, here’s another reason to cut back on the number of sodas you drink: sugary carbonated beverages are terrible for your teeth!
Why sodas are double trouble for your smile
First of all, there’s all that sugar. A can of soda may contain more than 10 teaspoons of sugar. That’s more than 2/3rds of a cup, or 10 sugar cubes—a LOT of sugar for such a small serving! It’s no wonder some people refer to sodas as “liquid candy.”
Dentists have known that sugar is a main cause of cavities and tooth decay since the 1700s. (Oddly enough, before that point people blamed cavities on the “tooth worm”—which we are glad to say is not actually a thing). So gulping down sugar by the canfulls each day is going make it hard to keep your teeth cavity-free.
But it’s not just sugar that’s the problem. Sodas—including diet varieties—have very high levels of acidity. When your teeth are exposed to acid—such as when you take a big swig of cola—the enamel protecting them can begin to weaken and may eventually dissolve. This can cause problems down the road not only with tooth decay, but also painful sensitivity. (Read our previous post about the importance of protecting your enamel.)
Obviously we’re not saying you can never have soda again—but it should be a treat, not something you drink at every meal.
Here are some ways to cut back on the soda and to protect your smile.
Change the way you sip
Don’t bathe your teeth in acid by swirling the soda around your mouth. Instead, swallow quickly. Better yet, use a straw.
Rinse now, brush later
After you finish your soft drink, rinse the acid from your mouth by drinking water. This will lessen the effect of the acid since it won’t have a chance to hang around your pearly whites.
However, we do NOT recommend brushing your teeth right after drinking soda. (You never thought you’d hear your orthodontist telling you not to brush, huh?) Obviously brushing your teeth regularly (and the right way for your orthodontic appliances) is über important. But the acid in soda softens your enamel for about an hour. So if you scrub your teeth with a toothbrush when the enamel is weak, you run the risk of doing more damage.
So rinse with water now, and give them a good brushing later on.
Swap sodas out for healthier drinks
If you’re drinking a soda or more every day, it may be time to cut back. Even rinsing afterward isn’t going to be able to keep up with all that sugar and acid! So try swapping out your sodas for other, healthier beverages.
Of course that can be a bit tricky. Lots of products advertise themselves as “healthy” even when they just plain aren’t. Energy drinks or bottled teas often have a ton of sugars themselves. And fruit juices, even when they are all natural, also pack in the sugar (and often a whole lot of citric acid).
Tea or coffee can be an occasional substitute for sodas—just watch out for coffee- or tea-based beverages that are loaded with fats and sugars. Also, be aware that tea and coffee are moderately acidic themselves—though still not as acidic as sodas—so don’t go crazy.
And this brings us to our last point:
Drink more water
Your body needs water to function, period, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Drinking water is the simplest way to do this, plus it’s got zero calories, no caffeine, and no sugar—so it’s a huge win if you’re looking for a way to reduce empty calories in your diet.
Swapping out sodas and other sweetened beverages for water has a ton of benefits, including preventing headaches and just helping you feel better overall. Not to mention it’s also way cheaper than sodas (well, as long as you don’t buy the bottled stuff from the vending machine).
If you need time to adjust from sweet beverages back to water, you can give your water a splash of flavor with fruit like lemon or watermelon, or with a little mint or other herbs. (Here’s a list of 50 different combinations you might try!) Citrus fruits do have a lot of acid in them, but a squeeze or two is fine in your water.
We hope these tips help you as you work to keep your smile beautiful. Do you have other ideas or experiences with cutting back on soft drinks? Let us know in the comments below!