UCLA School of Dentistry student
Sweetened beverages have become a treat that
many Americans have every day. The truth is
that these drinks are not healthy, especially
for our dental health and smiles. Everyone
has harmful bacteria in their mouths that
eat the sugars we consume. The bacteria get
energy from the sugar, but in the process
produce acid. The acid they make can
damage teeth, causing cavities to form or
erosion to occur.
Some of the most common beverages that
Americans drink actually have loads of
sugar, even drinks that are marketed as
“healthy” or “all natural”. If you think you’re
safe with drinks like juice, think again! A glass
of apple juice can contain a similar amount
of sugar to glass of soda. According to the
USDA, sugar should make up no more than
10% of your daily calories. For women, that is
10-15 tsp. per day. For men, it’s 12.5-18.75
tsp. Just one glass of that apple juice would
put many people at (or just under) their entire
Eliminating sugary beverages from our diets
would be best, but reducing the number of
sugary beverages you consume and substituting
healthier options with less sugar is already
a step in the right direction. Here is a list
of drinks that are full of sugar and drinks that
are better choices.
Lots of Sugar Better Choices
SodaWater Unsweetened tea
Energy drinks Milk
Chocolate milk Plain sparkling water
Smoothies Diluted juice
Fruit punch or juice
All of the drinks in the better choice column
have little or no sugar. That means they
won’t give the bacteria in your mouth a
chance to cause trouble and make acid
that can damage your teeth. Water can
also contain fluoride, which protects
teeth against cavities. The calcium in
milk also helps keep your teeth strong.
If you or your children are allergic to
cow’s milk, try unsweetened milk
substitute (such as almond, soy, rice)
with added calcium.
If you find you can’t resist your morning
cup of sweetened coffee, tea, or juice,
there still are some things you can do to
help protect your teeth. Here are some
suggestions to consider.
1. Drink, don’t sip.
Sipping gives the bacteria more time to eat
the sugar and to create cavities. Drink quickly
to give your body time to wash away the bad
stuff. Try to drink sweetened coffees, teas or
sodas in one sitting instead of sipping on them
over a longer amount of time. If you give your
child juice, have them drink it with meals
only, and put only water in a sippy cup
they might carry around during the day.
2. Fluoride is your friend.
If your community’s water is fluoridated,
drink tap water to improve your dental health.
Fluoride protects teeth and has reduced the
number of cavities across the nation.
3. Brush and clean between your teeth.
Brush your teeth twice a day and clean
between your teeth once a day. Ask your dentist
about the best way to do this. Help all kids under
the age of eight to brush and floss well, and
be sure to visit to your dentist regularly.
Knowing what drinks contain sugar and that
sugar-sweetened drinks can hurt your
dental health is a good start. Set some goals for
your family to follow these tips. Good habits
begin at a young age, so help your kids
make healthy decisions about what they
choose to drink. Set a positive example, and
you will all have healthier smiles and a