by Dr. Chris Pham

Tooth-Healthy Food Decisions

Soft drink consumption has increased dramatically in recent decades. They’ve become a daily habit for a growing number of people, especially kids. A steady diet of soft drinks is a leading cause of tooth decay, enamel erosion, and obesity. They may even increase the risk of developing diabetes.

Soft drinks contain a large amount of sugar, which causes tooth decay by producing acid when it comes in contact with the mouth’s natural bacteria. This acid dissolves tooth enamel, eventually causing cavities. But why are soft drinks so much worse than many other snacks? A single 12 ounce can of soda contains up to 12 teaspoons of sugar! A Big Gulp can contain 63 teaspoons of sugar! Adding to the problem is that these large drinks are usually consumed over an extended period of time, prolonging the acid attack on the teeth. The acid attack lasts about 20 minutes, and starts over with every sip. If you have a receding gum line, this acid can damage the roots of the teeth. This is particularly a concern for adults.

Even diet or sugar free soft drinks can raise havoc with the teeth. While they don’t contain sugar for the bacteria to use to produce acid, they do contain their own acid which is added to enhance the flavor of the drink. This acid can damage the tooth enamel almost to the same extent as the sugared drinks.

How can you reduce decay?

• Drink soft drinks in moderation.
• Don’t sip for extended periods of time. Ongoing sipping prolongs sugar and acid attacks on the teeth.
• Do not drink soft drinks immediately before bedtime because the liquid pools in the mouth and coats the teeth with sugar and acid. Teeth are particularly susceptible to acid attack when you are asleep and there is little saliva flow.
• Drink water instead of sugared drinks. It has no sugar, no acid, and no calories.
• Get regular checkups and cleanings to remove bacteria buildup (plaque) and calculus (tartar).
• Remember to floss.


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