Summer Sippin’: How to Protect Your Teeth
19It’s hot, y’all. Houston summers are almost unbearable without a nice cold beverage. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of these common summer drinks and how you can protect your teeth from them.
What’s so Bad about These Drinks?
The beef we have with these awesome summer drinks is twofold: their sugar content, and their acidic pH. Sugar feeds the bad, cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth. An acidic pH softens and weakens tooth enamel, making it easier for those bacteria to cause cavities. Most of these drinks have one or both of these damaging traits.
We all love the icy slushy goodness of Starbucks frappuccinos. The problem is that they are jam-packed with sugar. Coffee is slightly acidic, so the lowered pH plus the high sugar content makes these a recipe for cavities.
Sports drinks are a great way to rehydrate after a good, hard sweat. However, they, too, are packed with sugar. Switching to G2 or Powerade Zero helps by eliminating the sugar ingredient. Even the sugar-free formulations are acidic, so they are not completely harmless.
Flavored Sparkling Water
This is a much healthier option than most other summer drinks. The added carbonation does make these more acidic than water. The flavors added to them can make them even more acidic. Watch out for citrus flavors (they add citric acid) because they are the most acidic version of the sparkling waters.
Sodas (Obviously . . . )
Surely you already know this one. Tons of sugar and super acidic. We won’t insult your intelligence by going on and on about how bad sodas are for your teeth.
Fun Fruity Alcoholic Drinks
All fruit is acidic. Some is much worse than others. Citrus fruits, as a category, are very acidic, with limes and lemons being the worst. Anytime you add fruit to a drink, you lower its pH. The problem with alcoholic drinks is that whatever you are adding the fruit to is also acidic. Beer, wine, champagne – all acidic. Both the fruits and the alcohol also contains lots of sugars (or simple carbohydrates).
How to Protect Your Teeth
We won’t tell you to give up your fun summer sippers. Well, except sodas . . . We will tell you to give up sodas.
Here are some things you can do to ensure that your summer beverages aren’t leading to fall cavities.
One of the factors in the cavity-making process is time. The bacteria in your mouth need the sugar in an acidic environment for a certain amount of time in order to start a cavity. Drinking the beverage quickly, as opposed to sipping on it for an hour, greatly reduces the chance that it will cause cavities.
Drink while Snacking
When we eat food, our bodies naturally produce more saliva to help swallow and digest the food. Saliva is slightly alkaline in nature, and it can counteract the acid in our drinks. By having your drink with some snacks, you help combat the sugar and acid naturally.
Chase with Water
After you drink a sugary and/or acidic beverage, swish and swallow some plain water. Water will help return the pH inside your mouth to neutral more quickly. This is the fastest, simplest way to reduce the damage from bad summer drinks to your teeth.
Chew Sugar-Free Gum
Sugar-free gum acts like food in that it stimulates the production of saliva. Because saliva is slightly higher in pH than water, it is even better than just swishing with water. If you cannot tolerate chewing gum due to problems with your jaw joints, try sucking on a sugar-free mint. Mints do not produce as much saliva as gum because they lack the chewing motion. However, they stimulate some saliva, and some is better than none!
Don’t Forget to Floss
Flossing removes the sugar-eating, acid-producing, cavity-causing bacteria from between the teeth. If you really want to prevent cavities, you must floss every single night before bed.
Ask Your Dentist for Help
It is important to know your risk for cavities. Some people have very strong enamel and therefore have very little risk for developing cavities from a few fruity drinks. We know. It’s not fair.
It’s kind of like managing your weight. Some people can eat whatever they want and stay skinny as a rail. Others just look at a donut and gain 2 pounds. It’s not fair.
The problem comes in not knowing on what end of that spectrum you fall. If you have no clue that you are high risk for cavities, you probably aren’t taking steps to prevent them. When Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren assess a dental patient, they give customized recommendations based on that person’s specific risk areas. They can help you win the battle against cavities.
If you are one of those unlucky people who has a high cavity risk, they will prescribe potent anti-cavity products you can use to help tip the scales in your favor. Our awesome dental hygienists Phyllis and Nancy can teach you how to clean certain high-risk areas of the mouth that you might be missing.
How Do You Know if You are High Risk for Cavities?
Officially, you need an in-person evaluation with dental x-rays for your dentist to determine your risk level. However, there are a few things that put people at a high risk. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you are probably high risk for cavities.
- Have you had a new cavity in the last three years?
- Do you drink soda between meals?
- Do you suffer from dry mouth?
- Is floss glaringly absent from your bathroom drawer?
- Do you have a lot of dental work from cavities in the past?
Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren will give you the definitive answer. But if you answered yes to any of these, be prepared for them to tell you that you do have a moderate or high risk for cavities.
More Information about What Summer Treats could be Bad for Your Teeth?
Call today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren. They will assess your personal risk and help you make changes to your routine to protect your teeth.