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Sweet Tea and Summer Sipping

by Dr. Mark Penshorn, a Schertz, Cibolo, Garden Ridge Dentist

Summertime heat brings the delight of cold beverages. Sweet teas, iced coffees, chilled sodas … what could be better on a hot day?!

While you are enjoying these refreshments, keep the health of your teeth in mind. All tooth decay is caused by acid decomposing the enamel and then the underlying dentin of your teeth. Certain bacteria that live on our teeth (plaque) convert sugar into acid. Frequent exposure to sugar can harm your teeth and turn “almost a cavity” into “needs a filling” rapidly. Many canned or bottled beverages are also high in acid. This low pH destroys enamel on the entire tooth, not just the “cavity prone” areas between teeth and at gum lines.

Research by the Minnesota Dental Association shows the following acid and sugar contents in some popular cold beverages:

BEVERAGE Sugar Content per 12 oz can Acidity level (low=bad)
Water -0- 7 = neutral pH
Gatorade 3.3 teaspoons 2.95
Dr Pepper 9.5 teaspoons 2.92
Diet Dr Pepper -0- 3.41
Coke 9.3 teaspoons 2.53
Diet Coke -0- 3.39
Mt Dew 11 teaspoons 3.22
Nestea 5 teaspoons 3.04

(For reference, battery acid has a pH of 1)


So how do we beat the heat and quench our thirst?

*Sweeten your own glass of tea instead of drinking the pre-sweetened version. You can add less sugar yourself and still get the sweet taste with considerably less than is used in the already sweetened beverages. Or you can use a non-sugar sweetener.

*Drink a sugared drink quickly. Enjoying 8 ounces of a cold drink over 5 minutes is much better for your teeth than sipping it slowly because the sugar doesn’t sit in the mouth for an extended time. The longer sugar is present, the more acid the bacteria make.

*Be aware of lemonades, with and without alcohol. These can be highly acidic which can damage more of the enamel on your teeth than just sugar will.

*When finished with your iced delight, top it off with any amount of water. This will rinse your teeth of the sugar after the fact and is a quick and cheap way to reduce the opportunity for cavities to form.

*Choose the non-sugared options when possible. Water is a wonderful thirst quencher and much better for your health than the sugared drinks.

*Thoroughly brush your teeth at least twice a day.

*Floss every day. It really helps.

*Keep a cold glass of water handy at your desk, table or wherever you are sitting. Sipping on water will keep you hydrated all day long, cleanse your teeth, and help your overall health. Insulated tumblers that keep drinks cold are great for the car on summer days. Taking a tumbler of cold water with you every time you leave the house is a great habit to form for adults and children alike. Drinking tap water with its natural mineral content (and fluoride if it is present) is better for your teeth than purified water.

Visit the rest of our website for more details on sugar, acid and tooth decay.

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