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Why the AAO Wants You to Skip the Soda

April 4, 2016

From time to time, nothing tastes better than an iced cold Coca-Cola. Whatever your favorite soda is it’s okay to indulge every now and then, but if you’re slurping down a soft drink with every meal you could be causing serious harm to your teeth. Soft drinks, including regular and diet soda, sports drinks, fruit drinks, and energy drinks all contribute to weakening tooth enamel. The damage to your teeth can be serious, however it’s even more threatening to teeth with orthodontic appliances, which is why the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends skipping the soda throughout your orthodontic treatment.

The problem with soft drinks is that they contain enamel-weakening acid that breaks down teeth by pulling out the calcium and making teeth soft to the touch. This pulling of calcium, or decalcification, can cause permanent damage to your teeth and will lead to cavities. For those with braces, plaque can collect around the brackets and between the teeth and gums, which will lead to decalcification if left unattended. Decalcification can become apparent in just four months and can leave permanent white stains on your teeth. While everyone has to keep up with their oral hygiene to combat plaque, those with braces need to be sure to clean around their brackets and between teeth to prevent extra buildup. Plaque is constantly forming on your teeth and is a sticky colorless film that’s made up of bacteria, food debris, and saliva. It feeds off of sugar and starches to create an acid that leads to stains on your teeth, decalcification, cavities, gum disease, and bone loss if it’s not removed regularly. When sugary foods and acidic drinks, such as soda, fuel plaque buildup it greatly increases the risk of enamel damage.

As you may know, chemicals are either classified as acids or bases and are measured by a pH value that ranges between 0 and 14. Basic chemicals have a high pH, acidic chemicals have a low pH, and neutral substances have a pH of 7. Substances with a low pH, or substances that are acidic, are what can cause serious damage to tooth enamel. Oftentimes, tooth enamel begins to dissolve at a pH level of 5.5. So, what kind of damage do your favorite soft drinks cause to your teeth? Here’s a look at the pH levels of various liquids:

  • Battery Acid – 1.0
  • Stomach Acid – 1.50
  • Coca-Cola – 2.60
  • Pepsi – 2.62
  • PowerAde (Fruit Punch) – 2.67
  • 5-Hour Energy – 2.91
  • Dr. Pepper – 2.98
  • Sprite – 3.26
  • Red Bull – 3.50
  • Tropicana Orange Juice – 3.93
  • A&W Root Beer – 4.43
  • Black Coffee – 6.12
  • Milk – 6.70
  • Pure water (neutral) – 7.00

As you can see, some of your favorite soda pops have especially low pH levels, which cause serious degradation to tooth enamel. Cavities are caused by a combination of plaque and sugar that leads to acid, decalcification, and permanent white marks on your teeth that become cavities. While plaque and sugar are unavoidable, adding extra acid from frequently drinking soft drinks and neglecting your oral hygiene will increase the risk of damage to your teeth. Here are some tips for protecting your teeth throughout your orthodontic treatment:

  • If possible, avoid all soft drinks during your orthodontic treatment
  • Drink plenty of water and milk
  • Brush and floss frequently
  • See your dentist every 6 months or more as recommended
  • Use a fluoride rinse and toothpaste to strengthen teeth
  • Stick to the food restrictions set by your orthodontist

If you love to drink soda every now and then or can’t make it through a sports practice without your favorite sports drink, that’s okay, but knowing the best ways to drink soft drinks to cause the least damage to your teeth can be helpful. Again, soft drinks can cause damage to anyone’s teeth, but especially those with orthodontic appliances, which is why the AAO recommends avoiding soft drinks so that your teeth remain strong and healthy and your treatment ends with a beautiful, straight smile. If you must have a soft drink, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Drink the soft drink quickly and avoid sipping over a long period of time since each new sip renews the acid attack on your teeth
  • Drink your soft drink through a straw
  • Have your soft drinks with a meal
  • Brush your teeth (or at least rinse with water) immediately after drinking a soft drink

Taking care of your teeth throughout your orthodontic treatment is the best way to ensure that you’ll love your smile when the braces come off. Keeping up with your oral hygiene, skipping the soft drinks, and listening to the recommendations from your orthodontist will keep your teeth healthy and strong. As your Jacksonville orthodontist, we want you to love your smile! If you have questions about your treatment or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us today!

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