Gulshan Dhanoya is an associate dentist at Honour Health and is currently undertaking a Restorative Masters at the Eastman Dental Institute, UCL.
Here, Gulshan writes about the fact that even ‘sugar-free’ drinks can play havoc with your teeth, and explains how to protect your teeth from beverage-based acid attacks.
Every day patients attend for routine examinations, ticking the ‘low sugar diet’ box on their medical history form, but find out from their dentist that they need a filling or multiple fillings. When they start thinking about the possible reasons for this, patients often say: “But I don’t have any sugar… I only drink coke zero or diluted no-sugar juice!”
Due to clever marketing and lack of dental education, members of the public often think that by choosing these seemingly healthier options, they are looking after their dental health, not realising the effects of certain drinks on their dentition.
Most people are aware that sugar causes tooth decay, and yet many people are unaware of dental erosion, which occurs when teeth are exposed to acid. Dental erosion can be caused by sugar-free drinks, which are acidic. Fizzy carbonated drinks, including sparkling water have an acidic pH, meaning they can erode the enamel (outer surface of the teeth). Depending on the brand of the sparkling water, the pH differs. Research states that drinks with a pH less than 3 have been labelled ‘extremely erosive’ and those with a pH between 3-4 are ‘erosive’. If you’re a fan of sparkling water, it may be a good idea to check the pH of your favourite brand before drinking it!
So what about juice? Is sugar-free juice bad for your teeth? Of course, it is preferable to have sugar-free juice, but citric juices have the same effect on teeth as carbonated drinks, causing erosion. Research carried out at the Eastman Dental Hospital found that drinking orange juice decreased enamel hardness by 84%.
Sipping these drinks slowly and over a longer period of time can increase the erosive effects. If you are going to drink an acidic drink, its best to drink it all in one sitting, for instance with a meal, rather than slowly sip it over a long period of time, as your saliva does not have a chance to neutralise the acid and protect your teeth. Another handy tip is to drink through a straw to prevent the liquid hitting all surfaces of your teeth.
Remember to wait at least half an hour after drinking an acidic drink before you brush your teeth, so that your enamel has time to re-harden. Protect your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste and brush twice daily.
Lastly, if you can, switch to plain water. It’s kind to teeth, keeps you hydrated, is calorie-free, sugar-free, and great for your skin. The benefits are endless!
Are you wondering whether or not your favourite drink is harming your teeth? To make an appointment for a dental health assessment with Gulshan, call 0191 281 3913, or book via our website (using the ‘book now’ button below).