Written by Dr. Kasey R. Sliger, DDS
Everyone knows that sodas aren’t good for you, so let’s move past the not drinking them to begin with because of their “overall health detriments” stage, and jump into the more indulgent and enjoyable discussion of the proper method of consuming that unhealthy (slightly delicious) beverage for a healthier mouth!
Here are some basic facts about the mouth: the normal/healthy pH in any given person’s saliva should be between 6.7 to 7.4. When the pH of the mouth is below just 5.5, the level of acidity starts to breakdown the enamel on our teeth and the longer they are in said acidic environment, the higher the risk for developing dental decay. Also parents, you should be aware that the enamel on baby teeth is thinner and therefore erodes quicker than permanent teeth. Soda and energy drinks rightfully receive most of the bad press about sugar amounts and consumption rates among children and adults, but other beverages such as fruit juices, sweet tea, sports drinks and vitamin waters can have as high, if not higher, levels of acidity (lower pH) than some sodas. Some say, “well I drink diet soda that has 0 grams of sugar, so this doesn’t apply to me.” Unfortunately, it does apply, beverage manufacturers add acids to drinks whether they are regular or diet to give them that recognizable tang and tartness. It’s not so much about the amount of sugar but the acidic additives that are used to create flavor profiles and increase shelf life. Examples of these ingredients are citric acid and phosphoric acid which causes the pH to be extremely low and create that acidic environment allowing for dental erosion. For reference, Coca Cola has a pH of 2.37, whereas water is neutral with a pH of 7 and is the ideal drink in relation to our saliva. Dental erosion is irreversible and easily preventable by stopping the consumption of acidic drinks, but it is unlikely to completely eliminate sodas from our diets, myself included, so here are some ways to reduce the risk of dental decay while still enjoying one of these beverages.
Know the pH of what you are drinking
Below are charts from a study available on the American Dental Association website that tested the pH of 379 drinks. Look at the chart to see the acidity levels of the drinks you have had in the past.
Limit the drinking time
It is tempting to want to savor the beverage by sipping on it throughout the day, but this keeps the pH of the oral cavity at an acidic level for longer, increasing your risk of dental decay exponentially. If consuming these types of drinks, have it with a meal and finish it in one sitting.
Rinse with water
Keep water nearby and take sips during and after consuming acidic foods and beverages to help neutralize the oral cavity.
Wait 30 minutes to brush
Instinctively, you would assume that brushing immediately after drinking an acidic beverage would be beneficial in lowering the pH of the oral cavity, but the enamel is still soft after finishing the drink, so wait 30 minutes before brushing and have some water in the meantime.
Schedule a Dental Cleaning Today
By reducing the amount of acidic beverages you drink, having a strong oral health routine, and receiving regular dental cleanings, you can counteract the negative effects of some beverages and enjoy a healthy and beautiful smile. If you drink a lot of acidic beverages, we recommend seeing one of our Knoxville family dentists, Dr. Ruth Bailey or Dr. Kasey R. Sliger, once every six months. To schedule an appointment for you or a member of your family, call your Knoxville dental office today at 865-588-1294.
Reddy, A. Likhith et al. “The pH of beverages in the United States.” Journal of the American Dental Association 147 4 (2016): 255-63 .