Soft drinks are a popular part of the Singaporean diet across different demographic groups, particularly among kids and teenagers. The bad news is that these high-sugar soft drinks are associated with increased tooth decay and that’s why you’ve probably heard that soda and other sugary drinks are harmful to your teeth.
When drinking soda, an interaction between the soda’s sugars and the bacteria in your mouth occurs to create acid. The resulting acid is what launches attacks against your teeth. With each guzzle of a soft drink; you’re initiating a damaging reaction inside your mouth which lasts for about twenty minutes. The more you sip, the more you expose your teeth to continuous attack.
The Contents of Soft Drinks
Soft drinks are made up of a sweetener, carbonated water, and natural or artificial flavouring agent. From a dental point of view, the elements present in soft drinks that mainly lead to tooth decay are carbonated water and the sweetener. The carbonated water made up of dissolved carbonic acid is responsible for the energising, bubbly taste of soda while the sweetener may be sugar or a sugar substitute. Simply put, when drinking a soda, you expose your teeth to acid and sugar, and its reaction.
Effects of Soft Drinks on Teeth
Erosion of tooth enamel
Generally, your teeth and gums are covered by plaque, which is a sticky layer of bacteria. Sugar is a key source of food for bacteria, and is abundant in soft drinks. An interaction between the bacteria and the soda’s sugars inside your mouth creates acids which are responsible for the erosion of the outermost protective teeth layer which is the tooth enamel. Consequently, the surface hardness of the tooth enamel is significantly reduced leaving your teeth highly exposed to tooth decay. Moreover, continued erosion of the tooth enamel also exposes the inner layer, dentine, leading to pain and tooth sensitivity. Each time you take a soft drink, this acid attack on your tooth enamel begins afresh.
The enamel of your teeth, which encloses the observable, outer portion of the crown of the tooth, is the toughest material in your body and is responsible for keeping your teeth healthy over time. However, repeated exposure to sugar and acid often softens the enamel, and it may not naturally regenerate. When the enamel of your teeth is softened by regular intake of soft drinks, the inner layers of your teeth become exposed, to acids and bacteria. As a result, tooth decay sets in. Factor in bad dental hygiene, and you may eventually suffer tooth loss. You may end up needing restorative dental procedures as crowns, implants or fillings to fix the damage. Loss of teeth or tooth structure can lead to drifting and misalignment of teeth over time; orthodontic treatment with braces will then be needed to re-align the teeth.
Reducing Sugar’s Impact
The obvious solution is to stop soft drink consumption altogether. However, some people are unable to stop the habit. In this case, there are a few tips you can practise to lower the risk of acid attacks on your teeth.
- Drink in moderation and drink fast
Do not exceed more than one soft drink every day if you feel you have to. Moreover, it’s recommended that you gulp down the soda rather than sipping it. This leaves minimal time for the sugars and acids to cause damage to your oral health.
- No soft drinks before going to sleep
As any good orthodontist in Singapore will tell you, it is important to get rid of any sugars or acids inside your mouth before bedtime. Your salivary glands will have less work to do overnight. In contrast, a sugary and acidic environment presents the perfect setting for inflicting damage to your teeth all night long. Brushing and rinsing your mouth after drinking soda can help get rid of any hidden sugars and acids before bedtime.
Stopping the habit of soft drink consumption may be a difficult one, but it’s something you should strive to achieve considering the harmful effects of this behaviour. The paybacks of not taking soft drinks are not only limited to your oral health but also your physical performance especially if you’re an athlete.