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Soft drinks and sports drinks – Looking past the labels.

Seemingly, every week on our market shelves there is a new type of drink that is better for our health. Making positive diet substitutions is a fantastic way to improve your overall health and wellbeing and these flow on to your oral health too. Being wary of what is in these new products can help keep you on track for a healthy body and smile.

There are two aspects to any drink, or food, which heavily impact your oral health - acidity and sugar content. Acid in food and drink is very common – and can usually be picked up by how sour something tastes. Sugar content is even more common and is easily recognisable as sweet. Well known examples that include high amounts of both are fruit juices, soft drinks and energy drinks. 

As Dr Matt Kei talked about last month, residual sugar in the mouth is able to be fermented by bacteria into acid which can cause teeth to rot. Acid in drinks can cause a great deal of acid wear leading to yellowing of teeth and sensitivity.

With newer drinks come new labels which make it hard to determine if they are in fact better for our teeth and gums. Such examples include low sugar drinks, rehydrating sports drinks, low calorie energy drinks and vitamin/mineral waters.

Many of these drinks have surprisingly high acidity levels – sports drinks for example are very happy to trumpet their ability to rehydrate your body after sweating it out at the gym, but be wary that some also contain high amounts of acid.  This can cause significant damage especially when you already have a low amount of saliva in your mouth after being dehydrated from such exercise.

Many ‘healthy alternatives’ to colas such as vitamin/mineral waters contain a surprising amount of sugars – although not as high as traditional colas and soft drinks. A typical vitamin/mineral water can contain 30 grams (around 8 teaspoons) of sugar! Although that is only half of your traditional colas, it is still an amount to be aware and wary of.

To add even more confusion, healthy alternatives of sugary soft and energy drinks are now commonly available in no or low sugar varieties. These certainly contain less sugar and calories but be wary as they usually contain more acid than their full sugar counterparts.

For any drink you choose to quench your thirst, be mindful of the promises on the label and think about sugar and acid content. The Australian Dental Association recommends the following for sugary and acidic drinks:

  • Try to cut down on the number of these drinks you have
  • Drink through a straw
  • Don’t brush your teeth for an hour after you’ve had an acidic drink – the acid temporarily softens your enamel and brushing them early will harm them
  • Don’t drink these before bed
  • Give your mouth a rinse with water after finishing one of these drinks.


Cheers to that!

Dr Sang Ho