The 1980’s were a great decade: cable TV and its whopping 32 channels was on the horizon, Trans Ams with T-tops were everywhere, I was rocking teal parachute pants, Alyssa Milano was on Who’s the Boss – just a great time to be alive. It was also an exciting time for dental researchers who extolled the effectiveness of recent efforts to exterminate dental cavities. They boldly predicted that by the year 2000, dental caries (cavities) would be extinct. So what in the world happened? Free refills.
That’s right, I believe free refills are to blame. Back then a soft drink was a rare 10-20 ounce treat. You could get a refill if you really needed one – but you had to buy it and it was usually the same price as the first cup. Now that a “normal” size drink is 32 oz and you can get all the refills you like, cavities are back with a vengeance. And it’s not just sugar – diet drinks are just as bad. Even diet soft drinks are very acidic and cause tooth erosion. (FYI, the pH of soft drinks is between 2.5-4.2, stomach acid registers a pH around 2.0 and battery acid is 1.0).
And don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors by having a sports or energy drink instead. Gatorade, PowerAid, etc provide energy primarily by giving you a big boost of carbohydrates (sugar) and they are very acidic as well. In fact, research shows that sports drinks are WORSE than soft drinks when it comes to causing decay.
The primary factors are 1) amount of sugar, 2) acidity/pH, 3) time in contact with teeth. That last one is important to understand because it is NOT the quantity of beverage consumed that is important, rather it is how long it is in contact with your teeth. So from a dental standpoint, it is better to consume 20 ounces of a dangerous beverage in 10 minutes time than it is to have 5 ounces over an hour. The worst way to consume your soft drink, energy drink or sports drink is to have a sip then set it down every 5 minutes (i.e. – while watching TV, on the computer, a quick sip while playing sports).
So what to do?
- Minimize how much you consume. Make it a treat, not a daily occurrence
- Minimize how long it takes you to consume it. Don’t sip.
- Don’t take a to-go cup with you. Drink it and be done.
- Drink through a straw to miss the teeth as much as possible
- Swish and swallow water after dangerous drinks to dilute acid and sugar
If this hits a little too close to home and you have a follow up question just give us a call at 817-431-4200.