What’s your favorite way to quench your thirst on a hot summer day? A tall glass of iced tea? A refreshing sports drink? A frosty cold Coke? A frothy beer? A tropical cocktail? While we enjoy our favorite refreshments, few of us think of the damage they may be wreaking on our teeth.
Fruit juices, teas, soft drinks and even sports drinks are almost exclusively acidic, with pH levels below 4.0. (An oral Ph of 5.5 or greater supports optimal dental health.) When these liquids come into contact with our teeth, they erode the enamel, making our teeth more vulnerable to decay and infection.
The lower the pH of a beverage, the stronger its enamel-eroding power. Following is a sampling of common beverages and their Ph levels. Remember, the lower the number, the more abrasive the drink.
Ginger Ale 2.0-4.0
Cranberry Juice 2.3-2.5
Dr. Pepper 2.9
Iced Tea 3.0
Root Beer 3.0-4.0
Mountain Dew 3.2
Grape Juices 3.4
What’s more, weakened enamel is more susceptible to abrasive wear, meaning brushing after an acidic indulgence can actually worsen the condition. So, what’s a thirsty person to do?
Your best bet is to go for some good old-fashioned water. With no acids or sugars (or calories, for that matter), water truly is nature’s perfect drink. Everyone deserves a treat from time to time, but to promote dental health, opt for water more often. When you do treat yourself to an acidic beverage, chase it with plain water or milk. If possible, follow up with a stick of sugar-free gum. Chewing gum increases the flow of saliva, and saliva helps to restore a safe oral pH.
Use a straw, when available. Straws divert liquids away from the teeth and toward the back of the throat, minimizing the acidic impact on your oral environment. If you don’t have a straw, avoid holding the drink in your mouth for long. Take short gulps, instead.
Studies show that fluoride could minimize dental erosion, so use a toothpaste high in fluoride, and take the fluoride rinses offered at your bi annual dental check-ups. Furthermore, use only soft-bristled toothbrushes, which are less likely to wear away dental enamel.
Curtis H. Roy, D.D.S., has served Acadiana residents with a general dentistry and specialty practice since 1970. Find his practice on the Web at www.drcurtisroyandassociates.com, visit the office at 3703 Johnston St., Lafayette, or call 981.9811, and look for him on Facebook and Twitter.