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Your Favorite Drinks: Superheroes or Foes?

Colorful cartoon showing two unlabeled drink bottles and a drink in a glass with three question marks hovering above

Are your favorite drinks working for or against your teeth? Before you take your next sip, here’s what you should know.

Superhero Drinks for Your Mouth

Defender of Your Mouth: Water

Among mouth-healthy drinks, water is the overall winner! It’s always a great choice for many reasons.

First, water does no harm. It has no acid, no sugar, and no calories, so you can drink it without fear. It will help keep your mouth clean by washing away bacteria-friendly sugar and erosion-causing acids from other foods and drinks. Water also fights dry mouth and bad breath by helping you maintain your saliva flow. Saliva is vital for defending teeth against decay and helping you swallow. And if you’re drinking fluoridated water, its fluoride helps to keep your teeth strong. Water is the hero we can’t live without!

Champion of Strong Teeth: Milk

According to the American Dental Association, milk is a non-erosive drink that is safe for your teeth. Not only that; its high calcium level can help neutralize erosive acids from other foods and drinks. In children, the calcium in milk helps build strong teeth; and for adults, milk’s calcium and vitamin D help prevent tooth loss. If you enjoy milk, drink up and let its superpowers work for you!

Your Mouth’s Drink Foes

Mouth Archenemy #1: Soda

There are numerous studies and tests that demonstrate how dangerous soda is for your teeth. Regular soda, which is high in sugars, packs a double wallop. As you drink regular soda, its sugars can combine with harmful bacteria in your mouth, which may lead to tooth decay. Even if you keep your mouth clean, the sugars in soda can begin fermenting with any harmful bacteria that are present. This process forms acids that can erode the enamel of your teeth (their outermost protective layer). Over time, erosion may lead to tooth sensitivity, cracks in teeth, and worse. Artificially sweetened diet soda isn’t any better; though it may be lower in calories, it’s still high in acid that can lead to erosion. Despite your best efforts to brush, floss, and rinse, your teeth are no match for regular or diet soda.

Villains in Disguise: Sports and Energy Drinks

While sports drinks are designed to help you rehydrate quickly by boosting your electrolytes after exercise, many sports drink varieties are high in carbohydrates—courtesy of the sugars they contain. Similar to what happens when you drink regular soda, sports drinks in excessive amounts can cause your teeth to erode.

Your Mouth’s Frenemies: Packaged Fruit Juices with Added Sugar

Most of us know the health benefits of fresh fruit, but it’s important to remember that packaged fruit juices sometimes include added sugar, which can team up with oral bacteria to cause tooth decay. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adult women consume less than 100 calories (25 grams or about 6 teaspoons) in added sugars per day, and that healthy adult men consume no more than 150 calories (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) in added sugars per day. These totals don’t pertain to the natural sugar in fresh fruits and other fresh foods.

If you choose fruit juice with added sugar to quench your thirst, you’ll want to read labels carefully. Consider that you’ll typically consume a glass, a can, or a bottle. Serving sizes usually start at 8 ounces; larger serving sizes may be over twice that amount.

You are your mouth’s best protector!

To best protect your teeth after enjoying any drink other than water, rinse your mouth and wait at least 20-30 minutes before brushing. This will allow the acid level in your mouth to drop and your teeth to remineralize, making it safe for you to brush them. Remember to floss daily as well!