Rethink Sugary Drinks

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Our teeth will be much stronger and healthier if we simply cut back on sugary drinks or, even better, remove them entirely from our diet.

Why sugary drinks are so bad for your teeth?

The more sugar you consume, the more you increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease, and sugary drinks contribute the most added sugar to Australians’ diets. Tooth decay is the most prevalent dental problem in Australia, experienced by more than 90% of adults at some point in their lives, and gum disease is one of the reasons behind tooth loss.

Many drinks contain acid that harms your teeth, including regular and diet soft drinks, sports/energy drinks and fruit juices. Sugar-sweetened beverages produce more acid when the sugar combines with bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria convert the sugar into acids that can gradually dissolve the protective outer layer of your teeth (the enamel). This is the process of tooth decay.

You might have tooth decay if any of your teeth feel painful, more sensitive to temperature or sensitive to pressure when biting down, or if you notice white, yellow or brown bands on your teeth close to the gum line.

If tooth decay isn't managed in time, it can form cavities that can expose the soft inside of the tooth (the pulp), which may eventually become infected. Your dentist might recommend a filling or root canal treatment to help restore a damaged tooth and remove the infection. If a tooth is excessively decayed, it may have to be extracted to protect your other teeth.

If the bacteria on your teeth continue to thrive and they spread to the gum line, they can irritate or infect the gums, leading to gum disease.

Learn more about tooth decay

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth feeding on the sugar from foods and drinks to produce acids that dissolve and damage the teeth. Regular and ‘diet' soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, fruit drinks and cordials also have high acid levels that can cause tooth erosion.

Tooth erosion occurs when acid attacks the teeth to dissolve the outer surface of tooth enamel.

Regular loss of enamel can lead to cavities and exposure of the inner layers of the tooth that may become sensitive and painful. Each acid attack lasts for around 20 minutes. Every time you take a sip of the drink, the acid damage begins all over again. Keep in mind that prevention of enamel loss is essential for the long-term health of your teeth.

How to fight tooth decay and erosion:

  • Drink soft drinks only in moderation, if at all.

  • Use a straw, so your teeth are less exposed to the sugar and acid in the drink.

  • Take a drink of water, preferably tap water that has been fluoridated, after a sugary or acidic drink to help rinse out your mouth and dilute the sugars.

  • Protect your teeth by using fluoride toothpaste. Also, after drinking sugary or acidic beverages, don't brush your teeth right away. Wait at least one hour so your teeth can recover and your enamel can re-harden before you take the brush to them.

  • Do not sip a sugary or acidic drink slowly or over a long duration. Doing so exposes your teeth to sugar and acid attacks for longer.

  • Never drink sugary or acidic drinks before you go to bed – if you do so, the liquid will pool in your mouth, coating your teeth with sugar and acid.

  • Drink water instead. It has no acid, no sugar – and no kilojoules.