The Truth About Soda And Your Teeth

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Medically reviewed by Danielle Romatz, RDH

When you’re feeling particularly thirsty or craving something sweet, a cold soda can feel like a godsend. But we all know soda isn’t the healthiest drink out there, especially when it comes to oral health. So how does soda affect our teeth? Is it safe to drink?

Sodas generally have high acidity and a lot of sugar, elements that can lead to tooth decay. The damaging effects of soda last for up to 20 minutes after each sip. To limit the harm soda causes, try to limit your intake as much as possible, use a straw, and rinse your mouth out afterward.

Not all sodas are created equal. Coke is probably the most detrimental option, while some others like Root Beer and Sprite may have slightly less sugar content (depending on which Coke flavor you’re comparing them to). Water is the best choice if you want to keep your teeth as healthy as possible, but let’s look closer at how soda effects your teeth and how to manage the impacts so you can make an informed decision.

What Does Soda Do to Your Teeth?

Close up of happy woman drinking coca cola

While sodas can be an appealing option to quench your thirst, it’s important to remember that sodas can be extremely harmful to teeth. The high acid content in sodas can erode tooth enamel, while the sugar can lead to cavities. 

Sodas usually contain a lot of sugar, which can react with the bacteria in your mouth and form harmful acids. Furthermore, these acids join with acids already present in your mouth, together causing a damaging reaction. 

Bypassing your teeth entirely with a straw (like this reusable portable option (on Amazon) you can take anywhere with you) can help a lot, but if you taste it, it’s in your mouth, and it’s going to have effects on the chemistry in your mouth. You may prevent sugar from coating your teeth as well with a straw, but your mouth will become more acidic no matter what you do (straw or no straw).

Here are two of the most common effects of consuming sodas: 

  • Erosion: The acids that are formed from soda will react with your teeth and start to deteriorate your tooth’s enamel. The enamel is the outermost layer of your teeth that defends them from foreign particles such as acid, sugar and food debris. 

    Once the enamel starts to erode, your teeth will become more vulnerable to cavities, tooth sensitivity, gum diseases, and overall pain and discomfort. Enamel erosion is a serious issue because once the enamel is damaged, it can’t regenerate. 
  • Cavities: The carbonation, sugar, and acids inside soda will speed up the production of harmful bacteria in your mouth. This bacteria can then cause cavities. Sodas also harm your tooth enamel and cause tooth sensitivity and overall tooth decay. 

Reducing your intake of sodas is a great way to limit their harmful effects on your teeth. You should also remember to practice regular oral hygiene to keep your teeth clean and healthy. 

How Long Do the Damaging Effects of Soda Last? 

According to most experts, drinking soda can cause damage to your mouth for a period of up to 20 minutes after you take a sip. That’s how long it takes for your mouth to get back to its neutral state.

However, the harmful effects of soda don’t just end there; if you continue to sip a soda throughout the day, the effects will continue, harming your teeth all day long.

The high amount of sugar found in sodas reacts with the acids already in your mouth, which can start to deteriorate your tooth’s enamel and lead to tooth sensitivity and cavities. 

Apart from dental and oral health issues, sodas are also closely linked to obesity, overall weight gain, and type 2 diabetes. Tooth stains and visible tooth decay can also ruin your smile. And — don’t forget — dental work is not cheap!

Can You Drink Soda Without Harming Your Teeth?

Young woman or teenage girl drinking soda from can

There are a few ways to minimize the harmful effects of soda on your teeth. Some of these are: 

  • Drink moderately: Reduce your soda consumption as much as you can. Moderate consumption will reduce the severity of the negative effects on your teeth. 
  • Drink quickly: Try to drink your soda as fast as possible, giving it less time to come into contact with your teeth. The more time you take, the longer the soda has to interact with your teeth, and that increases the chances of cavities and enamel deterioration. 
  • Use a straw: Drinking through a straw helps to keep the soda from coming into contact with your teeth. 
  • Rinse your mouth after drinking: Rinse your mouth with water after you drink soda. The water will help flush out any remaining sugars which could stay in your mouth and cause damage.
  • Don’t brush immediately: Contrary to popular belief, brushing your teeth immediately after drinking soda can greatly damage your teeth. This is because the acid in the soda can soften the enamel on your tooth and brushing immediately afterward can cause it to degenerate even further. 
  • Don’t drink soda before bedtime: The sugar and acid in soda will continue to react and damage your teeth overnight. Apart from that, the sugar and caffeine may keep you awake. 
  • Practice regular oral hygiene: Regular dental checkups, brushing your teeth, flossing, and using a fluoridated mouthwash are some good ways of preventing your teeth from harm. 

Are There Any Safe Sodas for Your Teeth?

While most sodas are bad for your teeth, there are options that are better than others. Sodas such as Mug Root Beer, Sierra Mist, Sprite, and Welch’s Grape Soda are less acidic.

Root beer is generally considered the safest of the sodas, while the soda you should be avoiding is Coke. Not only does Coke have the highest amount of acid but it also contains darker artificial colors that can lead to staining. 

All in all, drinking water is the safest option. Try to limit your soda intake as much as possible, and when you do a simple swig of water afterward can help you reset the chemistry/acidity levels in your mouth and prevent any more damage than is absolutely necessary to get that sweet swet sugar rush.

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