Smile: Protect your teeth by avoiding these drinks

Drinks! (Photo credit: Martin Cathrae)

Good dental hygiene begins with regular brushing and flossing, and a nutritious, well-balanced diet. Most people assume that they don’t have to worry as long as they are doing all of these things. However, protecting your teeth by not drinking sugary beverages is key to reducing the general wear and tear on your teeth.

The following list includes a few of the biggest culprits.

To Protect Your Teeth, Just Avoid These Drinks:


Surprisingly enough, the sugar in soda does not have the biggest health impact for teeth. Both regular and diet carbonated beverages contain high quantities of acid, which strips minerals from tooth enamel. The acids can include phosphoric, citric, malic, and tartaric.

While diet sodas may be preferable for people looking to cut sugar and calories, it is important to keep in mind that they still have acidic content. If you drink soda, do so over a short period of time, such as with lunch or dinner, instead of sipping on it all day — this reduces the amount of time that the teeth are coated in acid.

As citrus fruits can also be detrimental to tooth health, it is best practice to steer clear of sodas with citrus flavors. They can strip tooth enamel as much as two to five times more quickly than dark colas.

Sports drinks

Most people are even more surprised to learn that sports drinks can be just as hazardous, if not more so, to tooth health than soda and fruit juices. Unless you are an endurance athlete, you should think strongly about seeking other sources of hydration during exercise. Similar to soda, sports drinks have strong acidic concentration that compromises tooth enamel and leads to a higher risk of cavities. It is also best to consume them in a single sitting to minimize acidic damage.

Energy drinks

Some Reload -energy drink bottles.
Some Reload -energy drink bottles.
(Photo credit: wikipedia)

Energy drinks rank right after sports drinks on the list of worst beverages for tooth health. Energy drinks have a very low capacity for fighting the high acidic content that they contain.

Teenagers and young adults who have less mature and more porous tooth enamel are particularly susceptible and should think about avoiding sugary beverages altogether.

Fruit juices

There are a number of beneficial ingredients in fruit juices, such as vitamins and antioxidants, which means that protecting your teeth does not mean that you should cut out fruit juice completely. However, it should be consumed in moderation. This is especially important for juices that have high acidic content including berry, apple, and citrus. Highly acidic juices can have just as much acidity as vinegar and can lead to compromised tooth enamel, cavities, and sensitive teeth. Whenever possible, choose calcium-fortified juices, as they minimize tooth enamel damage.

Coffee and tea

The general rule is the darker the beverage, the darker the stain. Many people believe that tea is not as harmful for teeth as coffee, but that is not necessarily true. For example, black tea is likely to stain teeth more than coffee. While cutting out sugary drinks is not as relevant to coffee and tea as it is to the other drinks on this list, if you’re worried about tooth staining, it is best to steer clear.

Wine, beer, and liquor

It should not be surprising that wine, beer and liquor can all compromise tooth enamel and lead to gum disease. When alcohol, particularly beer and red wine, is consumed often, it can gradually stain teeth. Both white and red wines contain erosive acid, which can soften enamel within five minutes of exposure, and the tannins in red wine can dry out the mouth.

Protecting your teeth by not drinking sugary beverages is one of the best things that you can do for your dental health. If you do consume drinks with high sugar and/or acid concentrations, it is optimal to consume them in moderation and to drink them in one sitting. The less time you expose your teeth to sugar and acid, the better.

About the author:

Dr. Joseph Zelig, D.D.S., is a Board Certified Periodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology. A Manhattan cosmetic dentist, periodontist, speaker and educator, Dr. Zelig is currently practicing at Smile in the City in New York.

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