Are Your Drinks Eating Away Your Teeth?
Teeth enamel is the hard shell that covers the crown of the teeth to protect them from damage caused by biting, chewing, extreme temperatures and acidic substances.
Without the enamel, we would have developed many more cavities and the nerves inside our teeth would have been open to the painful sensations of chewing and the extreme temperatures of the foods and drinks we put in our mouths.
The good thing is, we can adopt certain practices to prevent this shell from eroding. Choosing appropriate drinks is a good start.
Oral Bacteria Feed on Carbohydrates
The bacteria that live in your mouth feed on carbohydrates and produce acid through a process of fermentation. They then form a layer of plaque on your teeth. This acidic plaque eats away first at the enamel, and then at your teeth themselves. The key to addressing this problem lies with carbohydrates.
Fruit contains carbohydrates in the form of sugar. It is a natural sugar, but oral bacteria do not differentiate. To them, it is food.
The worst juices are those lovely, freshly squeezed ones with the tiny pieces of fruit that float in them. If the pieces stick to your teeth, oral bacteria have plenty of food to proliferate at an alarming rate. The best idea is to drink freshly squeezed juice only when you have a toothpick at hand to remove the pieces of fruit from your mouth afterwards.
Fruit juices that contains added sugar on top of that found naturally in the fruit is also risky, because they contain more sugar than your saliva can wash away afterwards.
Sports drinks are popular because they can replace electrolytes lost through exercise or just via normal dehydration.
These drinks are rich in refined sugar however, which again is bad news for your tooth enamel.
Unsweetened coconut water is a preferable alternative here, as it can replace the electrolytes spent after exercising, without filling your mouth up with a pile of unnecessary carbohydrates. Plus, some brands out there now contain added sodium to help their coconut water replace electrolytes in more appropriate levels, in line with the conventional sports drinks brands.
Drink Vegetable Juice and Water
If you want to drink juice while you are away from your toothbrush, unsweetened vegetable juice is the best option. It may also stick to your teeth, but green vegetables are low in carbohydrates.
Alternatively, stick to water while you are away from home to ensure that your mouth remains carbohydrate-free.
Acidic Drinks Erode Your Teeth
The bacteria in your mouth produce acid which erodes your teeth. As there are always bacteria, it is almost inevitable that your mouth will be fairly acidic. It is your job to ensure that you put enough alkaline substances in your mouth to neutralise some of this acid.
Coffee, Tea and Sodas
Coffee, tea and soda are all acidic. In fact, coffee and soda have a pH of 2.5, which makes them two of the most acidic substances you can consume. Soda contains phosphoric and citric acids.
If you add sugar, you are consuming a substance that both erodes your teeth directly and feeds the bacteria that produce even more acid that erodes them faster.
Swallowing these drinks as fast as you can is not a solution. If you drink eight glasses of them altogether per day, you will still have them in your mouth for minutes every day, regardless of the speed at which you swallow.
Moreover, if you swallow carbohydrates too quickly, the digestive juices in your mouth that are supposed to start breaking them down have no time to act on them. This makes acid reflux more likely, because your stomach acid must then do the whole job alone.
While milk may contain calcium to protect the teeth, it is also relatively acidic because of the heat treatment or irradiation used to sterilise it. Unless you can lay your hands on unpasteurised milk, it is better to give milk a miss.
Unsweetened fruit juice that is fortified with calcium is a much better choice if you are searching for a calcium-packed beverage.
Oranges and lemons are known as alkaline fruits because they leave an alkaline residue once the body absorbs them. They are, however, highly acidic in their raw form. In other words, you should consume them for their eventual alkalinity, but should avoid them because of their initial acidity. This is exactly as tricky as it sounds.
A good idea is to drink citrus juices, but to use a straw to minimise its contact with your teeth. You can also mix citrus fruits with other alkaline fruits and vegetables into a juice that is sufficiently alkaline to pass your teeth without damaging them.
Alkaline Water and Herbal Tea
Alkaline water and herbal tea are two of the best alkaline drinks to enjoy between and after meals. They neutralise the acidic layer of plaque that oral bacteria form on the teeth. They also re-supply the teeth with the calcium and magnesium that the plaque destroys. These are the two chief teeth building minerals without which teeth decays faster.
Make your herbal tea with alkaline rather than tap water. Swirl it around your mouth before you swallow. This will help to wash away the pieces of food that are stuck in your teeth, it will remove some of the plaque and neutralise the acid.
Remember that tap water is chlorinated to sterilise it. Chlorine is acidic and is thus worth avoiding. If you don't feel like drinking water, just rinse your mouth with alkaline water after eating and drinking.
A dehydrated body cannot produce saliva. Saliva is the body's natural toothbrush, since its job is to remove food and plaque from the teeth. It also contains calcium to neutralise the acid produced by the bacteria and that re-supplies the teeth with alkaline minerals.
Alcohol is a strong diuretic that will ultimately leave you with a dry mouth. It is also packed with sugar. This means that alcohol feeds your oral bacteria while simultaneously drying up the saliva that is meant to wash the bacteria away and neutralise the acids they produce. Furthermore, alcohol is also acidic, making it a particularly harmful triple-whammy which you can avoid only by avoiding alcoholic drinks altogether.
The fibre in fruit and vegetable juices stimulates the production and flow of saliva. In the same way as fibre in your intestines absorbs water, the fibre in your mouth stimulates the production of saliva that it can absorb. This is why you should not avoid juices altogether but just reach for a juice occasionally and for the most part, drink plenty of fresh alkaline water in between meals.