As the days get hotter, we start craving just one thing– a refreshing, cold drink.
Nothing feels better than indulging in a glass of your favorite beverage on a hot summer day, but you may be indulging a bit too much.
Gatorade and other sports drinks become especially popular when the mercury rises, and we understand why. Gatorade provides a cold, sweet, and sugary blast of refreshment, and it doesn’t dehydrate you like caffeinated soda.
Because it makes you feel better when you’re out in the sun, you might think it has no ill effects on your health.
Gatorade still contains plenty of sugar, though, which leads to tooth decay. As people begin craving more cold, sweet drinks, they’re putting themselves at greater risk for tooth decay.
It’s okay to enjoy a Gatorade, a lemonade, a sweet tea, or a soda once in awhile. But you need to take other precautions to give your teeth a fighting chance against bacteria and acid.
When you drink soda, Gatorade, or other sweet drinks, the sugar from the soda combines with the bacteria in your mouth, which forms acid. That acid attacks your teeth.
Here’s a quick list of best practices for consuming sugary drinks:
- Regardless of what else you drink, drink eight glasses of water per day. Water will refresh and quench your thirst just as much as any sugary drink, and it’s much better for you.
- Try to keep soda and other sweet drink consumption to less than 12 ounces per day
- When possible, use a straw– it helps keep the sugar away from your teeth
- Try to finish your drink in one go, instead of sipping it slowly over time. From the Wisconsin Dental Association, “Each attack [by acid, bacteria, and sugar] lasts about 20 minutes and starts over with every sip of soda you take.”
- Don’t substitute a sugary drink for a meal.
- Brush and floss at least twice daily.
- Don’t drink soda right before bedtime.
- Rinse your mouth out with water after consuming a sugary drink, especially when brushing is not possible.
- Visit your dentist regularly.
It’s also good to check your drink’s label for sugar content. Fruit juice is often more sugary than soda or sports drinks, so keep that in mind, too.
Milk, cheese, and vegetables can also help protect your teeth against tooth decay caused by sugary drinks.
A Word on Sugar Substitutes
When it comes to exposing your teeth to acids that cause tooth decay, sugar-free drinks are often just as bad as sodas and drinks that contain regular sugar.
Insurance provider Carefree Dental cites a conversation with Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a restorative dentistry professor at Temple University:
“Research is showing that the lack of sugar is not making these drinks any less corrosive, as most soft drinks still have a significant amount of acidity. In fact, Bassiouny says that the carbonation could make the drink more acidic.
For example, one of Bassiouny patients came to him after drinking a liter of diet soda every day for the past three years. He said that her teeth were comparable to that of a methamphetamine user, commonly called “meth mouth.” The corrosive chemicals from that drug cause severe tooth decay, making teeth crumble, discolor, and crack. Unfortunately, consuming diet soda on the regular can cause similar oral damage over time.”
The best solution is to drink plenty of water, limit your exposure to sugary drinks (and their diet counterparts), and come in for regular dental check-ups.
~Dr. Marea White