Summer is here! If you have children, you know they’re going to be playing outside and coming back inside, sweaty and in search of cool refreshment. Water is always the best way to rehydrate when you sweat, but both kids and adults often seek out beverages that are more interesting. Sodas and sports drinks are bad for your overall health, as they contain high amounts of sugar. Orange and apple juice are just as bad. Does that mean any non-caloric or low-calorie drink is a good substitute? Not from the point of view of a family dentist.
If you want to learn more about making healthy choices for your family’s smiles, Contact Knoxville family dentist Dr. Jack Haney. Call us at 865-693-6886 to make an appointment.
Sugars and Acids
There are two things present in beverages that can harm your tooth enamel: sugars and acids. Sugars feed mouth bacteria, which then “poop” out acidic excretions that cause cavities. The problem with sugar-free and low-calorie drinks is that most also contain acids that erode tooth enamel. Even diet sodas are high in acids, as are low-calorie sports drinks and juices.
Acid levels are measured on a pH scale, which goes from 1-14. The lower the number, the higher the acid content and the greater the danger to your teeth. Drinking water should be neutral on the pH scale, with a measure of 6.5-8.5. Milk is neutral, with a pH of about 7. That’s what makes milk a good choice for your teeth. It’s not very refreshing on a hot summer day, however.
Most sodas have a pH of 2.5 to 3.5, which makes them a bad choice for enamel health. Oddly enough, there is one type of soda that always tests higher on the pH scale: root beer. This drink usually tests around 4.5, which means it is significantly less acidic than other sodas, but still more acidic than plain water.
pH Measures of Common Beverages:
Orange juice 3.3
Apple juice 3.35–4
Clear sodas 3.3-3.6
Coconut water 4.5-5.5
Fresh iced tea 6.37
Bottled/Canned iced teas 3.5-4.5
Sparkling mineral water 5.5-8
Seltzer water 3-4
What Makes a “Safer” Beverage?
As you can see from the list above, many popular drinks are highly acidic. You can make healthier choices for your kids’ teeth by giving them drinks that have a higher pH level and are less sweetened. If your kids like sports drinks, make them a “sports drink cooler” that is diluted with water and served over ice.
Making drinks at home is always a healthier choice than buying bottled drinks, because you can control the sugar and acidity. Just a small amount of lemon juice can make plain water more appealing. If your kids like iced tea, buy decaffeinated tea bags and make fresh iced tea for your children every day. If your kids are adventurous, add thin slices of cucumber to a pitcher of ice water for a tasty, refreshing drink.
Tips for Avoiding Enamel Damage from Acidity
You don’t have to avoid acidic drinks altogether. There are ways you can help prevent acid erosion and tooth decay, even with an occasional soda or lemonade.
- Dilute Juices and Sports Drinks: Adding water and controlling portions can lower the sugar and acid content considerably.
- Use a Straw: Sipping drinks with a straw minimizes contact with the teeth. If you are going to let your kids have a soda every now and then, make sure you put a straw in the cup.
- Rinse the Mouth with Water: Drinking a few sips of plain water after an acidic drink can prevent acids from sitting on the teeth and harming your enamel.
- Make Acidic Drinks the Exception: Always keep water on hand where your kids can get to it without help. Keeping a stack of small cups and a water dispenser in the refrigerator or on the counter is a great way to let kids get their own refreshment.
To learn more about your family’s oral health, visit our Knoxville dental office for preventive care. Call us at 865-693-6886 for a check-up with Knoxville family dentist Dr. Jack Haney.