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The Sugary Truth

The Sugary Truth

When it comes to your teeth, sugar isn’t all that sweet.

When you drink sugary drinks, the high-fructose corn syrup in them combines with the natural bacteria in your mouth to form acid. That acid attacks your teeth, weakening your tooth enamel—your primary line of defense. Each one of those “attacks” lasts for about 20 minutes. The kicker? That 20 minutes starts over every time you take a sip. And once those attacks damage your tooth enamel, bacteria in your mouth can start causing cavities and tooth decay.

“But drinks don’t have that much sugar,” you say. “It’s just one drink! It’s not like I’m eating candy or anything.” Au contraire, sugary drink drinkers. What you’re sipping on may have much more sugar than you think. Look at it this way:

  • Pop = 5.5 cupcakes... with icing… and sprinkles…
  • Sports Drink = 40 mini marshmallows
  • Lemonade = 9.5 candy rolls  
  • Juice Box = 40 gummy bears
  • Energy Drink = 11 chewy candies
  • Unicorn Coffee = 5 frosted, sprinkly donuts
  • Hot chocolate = 8 chocolate candies

We could go on, but you get the idea.

Remember these tips before sugar hits your lips.

All of that’s to say, in the words of a dentist, “Sweetened drinks are to teeth as cigarettes are to lungs.” So the best way to combat them is, you guessed it, avoid them altogether. But if you want to have one every now and then, try some of these tips:

  • The more sugary drinks you have, the more damage it will do. So for your teeth's sake, try to limit your intake.
  • When you continuously sip for extended periods of time, you're prolonging the attacks on your teeth. Drink it with a meal—when you're done eating you're done sipping.
  • Swish some water around your mouth right after you have a sugary drink. The water helps to dilute the sugar to cause less damage.
  • Don’t drink pop, juice, or sports drinks right before bed. If you do, the liquid will coat your teeth with sugar and acid. Then it just stays there until you wake up….
  • Read labels to check what’s really in your drink. Just because it says “sugar-free” doesn’t make it tooth-friendly. It could be high in acid which is just as bad.
  • Here’s an obvious one: drink water instead.
  • Floss! Your teeth will love you for it.
  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. It’ll help protect your smile.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: Visit your dentist for check-ups regularly—we recommend every 6 months. Your dentist will keep your teeth clean and be able to catch a problem before it’s too late.

Use our Find a Dentist tool to find an MDA dentist near you.


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