The best drink for your teeth is water. Neutral pH, hydrating, and nonstaining. But we know you’re tempted to drink something else from time to time. But if you’re going to drink, do it in a way that’s safe for your teeth. Here’s a list of drinks to avoid or limit if you want to keep your teeth healthy.
Soda is the most dangerous drink for your teeth. It’s very acidic (colas have a pH of around three—some even in the range of 2–where pure water is 7 and battery acid is 1), and many people are tempted to sip them all day, day after day. This will eat away your tooth enamel, the white outer covering of your teeth. And if the soda contains sugar, that fuels the growth of mouth bacteria, which excrete acid and can damage your teeth further.
Sports drinks are also very acidic, many of them having a pH similar to or even lower than sodas. And they contain sugars. It’s hard to say whether they’re worse than sodas. Although people don’t usually drink them all afternoon, when they are being used it’s in the context of working out when people are somewhat dehydrated and the mouth environment is prime space for bacteria. Sports drinks have been blamed for workout cavities.
Lemonade is a similar story to soda and sports drinks. Depending on the source of the lemonade, the pH can be in the 2.5-3 range, and it’s also likely to be full of sugar. This is another very good reason to avoid lemonade cleanse diets, which encourage you to basically drink lemonade instead of eating full meals. These dangerous diets can destroy your teeth as well as harm your health.
If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably got a clue what we’re going to say here. Most mixed drinks are made with alcohol and soda or simple syrup, which makes them acidic, sugary, or both. Mixed drinks also have the problem of dehydrating you, which means you’ll have less saliva to help keep bacteria under control.
It’s okay to indulge every once in a while, but at your regular happy hours, you should get used to ordering “neat” or “on the rocks.” Better yet, order a beer, which has antibacterial properties, is only mildly acidic, and has nutrients that are good for your teeth and bones.
The worst thing about wine coolers is that they don’t have wine. Wine, although acidic, can be good for your teeth. But wine coolers are mostly sugar, water, and acid. With artificial colors thrown in. If you want a cooler smile, just order wine.
It’s likely that tea is actually good for your teeth. Sure, it can be staining (that’s what teeth whitening is for!), but it has antibacterial properties and can even slow the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars in your mouth, which makes them less damaging to your teeth.
But these benefits are completely outweighed if you add a lot of sugar to your tea. And lemon. And don’t drink those bottled teas they sell at the store if they have any sweeteners or flavoring added.
Coffee is a similar story to tea. Yeah, it’s staining, but it has antibacterial properties and at least one study has linked coffee consumption with lower gum disease rates.
But once you add in all the sugar that gets put in one of Starbucks’ signature drinks (or a similar drink at any other place), you’re looking at an entirely different picture. Have a cup of black in the morning, but by all means, you must resist the temptation to drink liquid candy!