by Dr. Edmond Suh // July · August · September 2016

Candy – it was once regarded as the fruit of all things evil in the dental world. You probably recall the days when you went to the dentist and were educated about how much damage candy did to your teeth. The harm to your teeth caused by eating hard candy is certainly understandable. However, there is another silent dental danger lurking out there that you and your family may be consuming on a regular basis and is ruining more smiles than ever. 

Sodas, sweet tea, fruit juices, and even milk are now the biggest sources of dental cavities. I know these are oh so good on a hot North Carolina summer day, but these drinks cause the one concern that is not being address on a consistent basis by dentists. The primary damage that “liquid sugar” can cause stems from a lack of knowledge on how cavities are formed. Once you understand the process, you can make better educated decisions regarding your – and your family’s – dental health … not just this summer when these cool, refreshing drinks are even more tempting, but all year long.

The enamel covering our teeth is one of the strongest substances in our bodies. If you consider how many times a day someone chews, you’ll realize that it must be strong in order to endure this daily repetitive force. However, even the hardest substances cannot withstand a continual prolonged acid attack. For the most part, sugar has received most of the bad press in regards to cavities. However, sugar in fact does not cause cavities – acid does. The bacteria in your mouth release acids 30 minutes after you’ve ingested sugar. This acid eats away at your teeth enamel and eventually forms a hole in the outer coating, therefore causing a “cavity.”

This is why sodas (even diet versions) and juices are so detrimental for your teeth. Not only do they contain the sugars needed to begin the cavity-causing process, they themselves are already acidic. Therefore, the cavity process begins the minute you place the liquid in your mouth. 

The pH level for battery acid is about 1.0. For Coke, it is about 2.3, and Diet Coke 2.7. Power drinks (such as Gatorade and Powerade) are approximately three to five times higher, and high energy drinks such as Red Bull are up to 15 times worse. So if you’ve been drinking these types of beverages regularly and have been wondering why you are getting new cavities, this may be your silent culprit.

How do we correct the damage that is a result of this bad habit? Start by talking to your dentist. There are some amazing products on the market that can help reverse the harm that has already been done, if it is caught quickly. Your dentist can help you pick the right product for your teeth. For our patients, we have a cavity reversal program that is very effective if caught early, which is why regular checkups are critical. A small investment of time and money early on can save you thousands of dollars of dental work in the future.  

In the meantime, here are a few tips on how to limit the damage that these drinks can cause your teeth.
– Quickly drinking a can of soda is much better than slowly sipping fruit juice.
– Drinking from a straw will help prevent covering all of your teeth with your drink.
– Rinse, do not brush, after drinking an acidic liquid. 
– Avoid energy/power drinks as much as possible. 

There are many health reasons for reducing or eliminating sodas and sugary juices from your daily diet, with these beverages being one of the leading causes of tooth decay a primary reason. It’s not too late to reverse dental damage, but moving forward, follow the above recommendations and schedule regular dental checkups to help ensure the health and longevity of your teeth. With statistics showing that 80% of people notice someone’s smile first, make sure yours is a big, beautiful, healthy one, and smile often.

Dr. Edmond Suh

Owner of Supremia Dentistry, located at 1711 S. Main St. in Wake Forest.