Are Sugar Free Drinks Bad For Your Teeth? Diet Coke, Coke Zero, And More

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

Drinks like Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and Diet Mountain Dew may seem like the lesser of two evils, since they have less sugar, calories, and additives when compared to their traditional sugary counterparts. However, these drinks may still pose a threat to your teeth for other reasons besides sugar.

Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks typically have high levels of acidity, which can weaken, soften, and erode tooth enamel. Additionally, caffeinated drinks of any kind can dehydrate your mouth and reduce saliva production. To limit the risks, consume diet sodas in moderation.

So, should you even be drinking sugar-free and diet drinks, or is it better to cut these beverages from your diet? We’ll cover everything you need to know about how sugar-free drinks affect your teeth, and how you can safely incorporate these drinks into your diet.

How Can Diet Soda Damage My Teeth?

Young beautiful woman sitting at restaurant enjoying summer vacation drinking soda

Although diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks lack sugar, they can still cause harm to your teeth. These drinks typically have high acidity levels, measured by their pH levels. Frequent consumption of acidic beverages can result in the weakening, softening, and erosion of tooth enamel.

Loss of tooth enamel can, in turn, result in weak and sensitive teeth. If you have sensitive teeth, it becomes harder to enjoy both cold and hot foods. Enamel erosion can also lead to dental decay and gum disease if it’s not treated properly.

Additionally, the caffeine found in some of these beverages can also be damaging. Caffeine can dehydrate your mouth and reduce your saliva production. Saliva is crucial to protecting both your teeth and gums. With less saliva production, your teeth are at a higher risk of being damaged.

How to Prevent Damage From Diet Soda

Woman drinking soda from can with paper straw

Is there any way to prevent damage to your enamel from diet sodas? Or do you need to cut out these drinks entirely? Fortunately, sugar-free drinks can be consumed safely in moderation. Here are some tips on how to keep diet sodas in your diet:

Choose Xylitol Sweeteners: Xylitol is a plant-based sweetener that helps fight cavities. This sweetener can help balance the pH of your saliva, aid in repairing damaged enamel, reduce acid attacks from oral bacteria, and even fend off plaque formation. Be sure to look for diet sodas and drinks that contain Xylitol sweetener to minimize tooth damage.

Choose Caffeine Free Options: Choosing caffeine-free beverages is an excellent way to prevent damage to your teeth. As mentioned earlier, caffeine can dehydrate your mouth, reducing your saliva production. With less saliva production, your teeth are at a much higher risk of damage and decay.

Don’t Use Diet Sodas as a Primary Drink: Like all other sugary beverages, diet sodas should be enjoyed in moderation. To prevent damage to your teeth, don’t make these beverages your drink of choice. Swap out these drinks for normal water regularly to protect your teeth.

Minimize Exposure: Minimize the time your teeth are exposed to acidity by avoiding holding in big gulps of sugar-free drinks before swallowing. Keeping acidic beverages in your mouth exposes your teeth for longer periods of time, potetnially resulting in more damage.

Don’t Brush Right Afterward: Brushing right after a diet soda seems like the perfect solution, right? Wrong! As stated earlier, sugary drinks weaken tooth enamel, and brushing right after your teeth have been softened only adds to the erosion. For the best results, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth and use a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Use a Straw or Sipper: Many dentists recommend using a straw or sipper when consuming acidic beverages. This is because straws and sippers prevent sugary drinks from hitting our teeth directly. You can find great reusable water bottles on Amazon for affordable prices. Some of our favorites are the Venture Pal Half Gallon (on Amazon) and the Simple Modern Tumbler (also on Amazon).

Eat Calcium-Rich Foods: Acidic beverages weaken teeth enamel and reduce calcium levels. Calcium is known to improve teeth strength, so it’s important to eat calcium-rich foods. Some calcium-rich foods can include milk, cheese, leafy greens, and beans.

A number of dairy products have also been shown to neutralize pH levels and inhibit plaque from producing acids. Timing these foods with a meal can help protect your teeth.

Drink With a Meal: It’s best to drink diet sodas and other sugary beverages with meals. This is because eating stimulates the flow of the acid-neutralizing saliva that helps protect our teeth and enamel from damage.

Having a soda with a meal is also preferable to sipping on such a drink throughout the day. You want to make sure your mouth has a chance to return to normal pH levels and that your teeth don’t soak in an acidic environment for hours on end.

What’s the Verdict? Are Diet Sodas Dangerous?

At the end of the day, sugar-free drinks do pose a threat to tooth health for various reasons. However, with proper moderation and regulation, these drinks can be enjoyed safely.

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