Summer is in full swing! Your kids are home with 24/7 access to snacks and refreshing, cold drinks. Let’s take a look at some popular snacks and drinks that are actually harmful to your kiddos’ teeth!
What drinks are harmful to teeth?
There are many drinks that can be harmful to a child’s teeth. Some of the most popular ones are Gatorade and other sports drinks that are high in sugar. These are great for rehydrating after sports games and practices, but consuming these on a regular basis, as opposed to as needed, can cause permanent damage to teeth! If you, or your kids, consume one of these beverages, be sure to either brush your teeth shortly afterward or rinse your mouth out with water to prevent any possible damage and/or decay. In sports situations, you can also help avoid damage by drinking it all at once as opposed to prolonged sipping, as well as using a straw to minimize contact with the teeth.
Another dangerous beverage is soda. Sodas, diet or otherwise, have a high acid levels, as well as a high sugar level. It is commonly mistaken that diet sodas are less harmful. Unfortunately, this is not the case! Sipping on a diet coke or, really anything other than water for a prolonged amount of time is very dangerous to teeth. The two main effects of sodas on teeth include erosion and cavities. These reduce the surface hardness of the enamel making it easy to produce further tooth damage. The acid in soda does more harm than the sugar, making diet drinks just as dangerous as full sugar sodas. Another common facilitator to tooth damage is juice. Again, the acid in juice causes decay and the sugar tears up the enamel. Even sugar-free or low-sugar juices can cause damage.
For complete safety, water is by far the best choice of beverage! If your child is going to drink a sugary beverage, moderation is key! Having a sugary beverage every once in a while, such as once a day, or even once every few days, can help prevent any erosion or decay. Diluting the drinks can also be helpful using about two-thirds water and one third juice, soda, or sports drink.
Consistent consumption of sodas begins an acid attack on the enamel of your child’s teeth, as well as providing a new home for the bacteria that feeds on the sugar of the soda in their mouth. The ADA has solutions to fighting off the dangerous acids in your mouth. The daily dietary guidelines recommend eating two servings of dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, limiting the intake of juices to roughly 4 to 6 ounces and of course restricting the times per day that you consume soda. And again, drinking soda is still an okay thing to do, but in moderation.
Drinks to watch out for:
- Coca-Cola and Pepsi – They both have very low pH levels (meaning they’re more acidic).
- Ginger Ale – While it may provide a soothing effect for the stomach, this soda’s pH level is 2.82 (in other words very acidic).
- Fruity Sodas – Fruit juice itself is highly acidic which can cause damage to your teeth, and fruit flavored sodas are full of acid. Crush Grape and Orange both have pH levels below 3.00, as well as flavors of Hawaiian Punch, Sunkist, and Fanta.
What snacks are harmful to teeth?
Another big issue is snacking. A lot of times we have a tendency to snack throughout the day. The effect of snacking on teeth varies based on what you’re eating. Most of the time the snacks that we’re snagging are unhealthy so if your kids are getting fruit snacks, or gummy bears, or different types of candy, or even goldfish… which kids tend to get a lot of when they get dropped off at school or a friend’s house! Reducing frequency of snacking and just having it every once in a while, instead of several times a day it’s going to be much better for your kid’s teeth over time. Again, moderation comes into play. No child or adult is expected to have the perfect, utopian diet. Drs. Rubin and Sentelle, of Frisco Kid’s Dentistry, both have multiple kids and understand that getting proper nutrition into kids is hard enough without random people telling you that your way is wrong. Obviously sugary sweets and candies, especially ones that melt in your mouth, make it harder for saliva (aka ‘spit’) to naturally rinse away the sugar. Pickles are also a leading contributor to cavities with high acid found in vinegar and generally sugar.
Citrus foods, such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit are also very acidic. They are also a key part of a healthy diet and eating these in moderation will not cause too much damage to teeth. Just avoid them in bulk.
Many types of crackers, including the aforementioned Goldfish, contain refined carbohydrates which can cause inflammation including periodontitis (aka ‘gum disease’) and gingivitis (inflammation around the gum tissue supporting the teeth).
Pasta sauce is also very acidic and can break down teeth, however brushing teeth shortly afterwards can help stop damage and make breath smell better.
Similar to pickles, apple cider vinegar is highly acidic and can erode enamel quickly. If you drink apple cider vinegar, try watering it down and drinking it all at once as opposed to sipping it.
Snacks to watch out for:
- Taffy – Full of sugar and acid plus it gets stuck in teeth allowing for longer term tooth erosion.
- Caramels – same as taffy, really sticky and sugary plus it gets stuck in teeth and can pull dental equipment out of place.
- Hard Candy – In addition to being full of sugar they can also result in chipped teeth.
- Goldfish – Carbohydrates break down into sugars and small fragments can get caught in teeth causing extended damage.
- Ice – It can break teeth and the extended period of cold actually weakens tooth enamel.
Got more questions? We're here to help!
If you have questions about how to care for your child’s teeth, or concerns that they might have a cavity, please call (214) 618-5200 during our office hours and our team will be happy to answer questions or book an appointment.