Pain Free Dentistry

Soda, Sports Drinks, and Teeth

Pain Free Dentistry

Soda, Sports Drinks, and Teeth

Multiple cans of colorful soda options in front of large bottles of soda

Did you know that Americans drink an average of nearly 45 gallons of soda and sports drinks every year? Teeth are made of the hardest substance in your body and can withstand a lot of chewing and grinding, but sugar and acid from these beverages damage enamel.


Every time you step into a mini-mart, you have many options to squelch your thirst. A rainbow of colors in plastic bottles compete for your attention, and creative marketing often transforms sugared water into a fountain of youth. When it comes to your teeth, does it matter what you choose? How does a bottle of cola or a sports drink affect your teeth and general health?

Everybody knows most of these drinks contain a lot of sugar, but it’s easy to overlook how much. Quick math can help you visualize the carbohydrate burst with the first sip. The nutritional label reports the number of grams of sugar in a serving and 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. If a bottle shows 20 grams in a single serving, picture it as five teaspoons.

While a 12-ounce soda was the norm, 20-ounce bottles are now considered standard. But many labels show the grams of sugar for an 8-ounce serving and frequently report 2.5 servings in a bottle! Calculating the numbers on a typical label indicates you’ll consume over 19 teaspoons of sugar in this soft drink. Take a look at this one:

The bacteria that cause cavities use sugar for energy and produce acidic waste that erodes tooth enamel. Syrupy drinks provide an ideal power source to keep this population thriving while instigating an insulin spike in the bloodstream. The colossal sugar load also drives the liver to convert sugar into fat. Chronically elevated insulin creates insulin resistance, a condition contributing to various diseases. From cavities to cancer, sugared drinks help fuel many of the health problems afflicting people today.

An Acid Problem

Sugar forms a vital part of the formula that produces tooth decay, but the acid ultimately causes enamel to dissolve. The normal pH of your mouth rests around 7, but tooth structure begins to erode when the acidity drops to 5.5. Soda can send the mouth’s pH into a nosedive, making the mouth 1000 times more acidic than needed to start damaging teeth. A review of many ingredient labels shows citric, phosphoric, and carbonic acids in the mix. It may take 15 minutes for the mouth’s pH to return to normal after the last sip, and that means a steady diet of sugary drinks can alter the mouth for hours each day.

Diet sodas often have a pH of 3.2, far above the range that damages teeth. It’s a good thing that sugar is missing, but steady exposure to high acidity can still weaken tooth enamel. Artificial sweeteners may have long-term general health effects that we’ve yet to understand fully.

Limit The Damage


Enjoying fresh water regularly is the best strategy for your teeth and overall health. If you’re going to drink soda, consider the following tips:

  • Drink soda or sports drinks through a straw to minimize your teeth’s exposure.
  • Rinse with water right after drinking one of these beverages.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after drinking the beverage. This practice allows your mouth to return to normal pH before the teeth undergo the light abrasion of brushing.
  • Avoid drinks that list acids on the ingredient label.

If you consume a sports drink during strenuous exercise or enjoy an occasional soda with a meal, there’s not much reason to worry. Commit to keeping sugar exposure to a minimum and drinking more fresh water. Your teeth and your body will thank you!

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