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Sugary Drinks and Your Smile: What’s the Real Damage?


Sweetened drinks have become the norm for so many in Orem, Utah. But these beverages aren’t healthy, especially for our teeth. Why?


Because we all have harmful bacteria in our mouths. When they consume sugar, they start to produce acid, which can damage teeth, causing cavities and erosion.

Do you buy drinks labeled “all-natural” or “healthy” without checking the nutritional breakdown? Although juices do have some health benefits in the form of vitamins and minerals, one glass contains approximately all of your recommended daily sugar limit. According to the USDA, the recommended limit for women is about 10-15 teaspoons per day. For men, it’s a little more, at 12.5-18.75 teaspoons a day. Therefore, whilst you should continue to enjoy sugary drinks as an occasional treat, or juice for its health benefits, you should consume high-sugar beverages in moderation.

Although you might think it’s best to completely eliminate sugary beverages from your diet, this actually encourages a “yoyo” dieting way of eating. If you drink lots of sugary beverages now, and you completely cut them out, you’ll probably have a huge sugar crash, lose heart and crack open a coke.

Therefore, consider gradually reducing the number of sugary beverages you drink instead. You can also substitute high-sugar drinks with healthier, lower sugar options. Here’s a list of healthier options for your sugary drinks:

Lots of SugarBetter Choices 
 Energy drinksUnsweetened tea
 Chocolate milkMilk
 SmoothiesPlain sparkling water
 Fruit punch or juiceDiluted juice

The drinks in the better choice column have little to no sugar. That means they won’t give the bacteria in your mouth a chance to proliferate and make acid that can damage your teeth. Water is always a great option as it usually contains fluoride, which protects teeth against cavities. The calcium in milk also helps keep your teeth strong. If you’re allergic to dairy, lactose intolerant, vegan, or just looking for plant-based alternatives, then try lactose-free milk or a dairy-free alternative.

If you find you can’t resist your morning cup of sweetened coffee, tea, or juice, there are still some other methods to protect your teeth. Here are some suggestions you can easily implement:

  • Drink, don’t sip. Sipping your drink over a long period of time basically means that the sugar is in your mouth for longer. That means the harmful bacteria in your mouth have more time to eat the sugar and create acid that leads to cavities. Instead, drink your sugary beverage in one sitting or with a meal, giving those bad bacteria less time to rot your teeth.
  • Fluoride is your friend. If your community’s water is fluoridated, drink tap water to improve your dental health. Fluoride protects teeth and has reduced the number of cavities across the nation.
  • Practice good dental hygiene. Above all, the best thing you can do for your teeth is follow the basic rules. Brush your teeth twice a day, clean between them once a day, and never miss your regular dentist appointment.

That might sound like a lot of information. The place to start?

Collect the drinks you have on a regular basis and, from their nutritional labels or apps like MyFitnessPal, identify high sugar drinks. Work out your current sugar consumption and set goals to cut back, both for yourself and your family.

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It's time to clean those pearly whites!