It’s summer! The season of barbeques, cookouts, picnics, and backyard entertaining. But some of the most common beverages that grace our summer picnic tables are loaded in sugars and acids that can attack your tooth enamel. Lemonade, anyone? Read on to learn more about how to protect your teeth from your favorite summer drinks.
First, let’s talk a little bit about pH, a measurement of how acidic or alkaline a substance is. Plain water is considered neutral with a pH of approximately 7. The lower the pH, the more acidic the beverage is. Higher pH is alkaline. Drinks with a pH value of approximately 5.5 and below can cause acid erosion of the teeth. Why? Tooth enamel is a crystalline structure, and acids interfere with the chemical bonds holding the molecules of the enamel together. So when the teeth are exposed to a lot of acidic substances for prolonged periods of time or with frequency, the enamel will slowly dissolve over time. Drinks that are acidic and also contain sugar are double trouble because the sugar feeds bacteria in your mouth that produce even more acid.
The most common causes of acid erosion are popular beverages like sodas. Check out the average pH measurements of some popular drinks below. Remember, a smaller number is a lower pH which is a higher acidity; a larger number is higher pH and more alkaline (not acidic).
Unsweetened Tea 7.2
Water 7.0 (neutral)
Milk (2% or skim) 6.8
Chocolate Milk 6.7
Root Beer 4.6
Juicy Juice 3.5
Red Wine 3.5
Apple Juice 3.4
Diet Cola 3.4
Orange Juice 3.3
Mountain Dew 3.2
White Wine 3.3
Sweet Tea (bottled) 3
Dr. Pepper 2.9
Hawaiian Punch 2.8
Monster Energy 2.7
Almost all of these very popular beverages measure in with an acidic pH! But, as you can see, some are worse than others. The more of these beverage you can cut out of your diet, the better for your teeth. But they are tasty and widely available, and it’s probably not reasonable to simply avoid them every single day of the rest of your life! So if you want to keep drinking them, what can you do to neutralize the impact these drinks have on your enamel and help reduce acid erosion?
- Drink with moderation. Only drink acidic beverages at mealtimes, or during limited time frames. Don’t sip on them all day, which would mean continuous exposure to acids.
- Drink through a straw. Using a straw can help bypass most of your teeth and reduce the amount of direct contact with most of your teeth. (Acidic beverages will still lower the pH of the mouth and expose the teeth to acid, though, so don’t think you are safe to sip all day just because you use a straw.)
- Drink water after. Drink or rinse the mouth with regular water after drinking an acidic drink. Water helps dilute and neutralize the acid and wash it off of your teeth.
- Don’t brush immediately. After you’ve doused your teeth in acid, your enamel is in a weakened state, and brushing right away is likely to brush away a little bit of your enamel with it. Drink water and wait 20-30 minutes to allow the chemical bonds to re-stabilize.
At Mall of Georgia Dentistry, we want to help you protect your teeth this summer and always and keep your smile bright for a lifetime. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, just call our office. Meanwhile… brush, floss, and smile!