It’s summertime, and we’ve traded winter coats and hot cocoa for breezy linens and refreshing umbrella drinks. Unfortunately, though you might be counting down the days until your “Out of Office” is on and your feet are in the sand, because the culprits behind tooth decay and enamel damage never take a vacation.
We don’t want to be the ones to rain on your parade (especially since you’ve waited all year for it), but knowledge is power, so we want to share some of the best and worst beverages for the days ahead. While sugar and acidity remain two of the biggest threats to oral health, they have a way of hiding among fruity flavors and refreshingly light blends, so some of these summertime sources might surprise you!
Iced Coffee or Frappes
The good news is that most people enjoy their iced coffee and frappe drinks through a straw, which can help minimize enamel damage. The bad – but delicious – news is that most frappe drinks are made with a combination of ice, sweetened milk, coffee, and a whipped cream topping. These ingredients dry on your tongue, creating a halitosis perfect storm. While an afternoon coffee shop run might put a spring in your step, be aware that the effects of your cool treat will likely last longer than a caffeine buzz. Coffee also dries out your mouth, preventing saliva from repairing the early signs of tooth decay and gum disease, and coffee’s tannins contribute to long-term, resilient enamel stains.
An ice-cold glass of lemonade is a summer rite of passage. Unfortunately, its main ingredients are usually sugar and acidic citrus, a dangerous combination for healthy teeth. Acid levels can be hard to detect because they’re often masked by sugar and other additives. When we consume sugar, it mixes with our saliva’s natural bacteria to create acid, which drives up the PH level causing a more acidic environment in the mouth. These levels can remain elevated for twenty minutes or more, during which time acid begins to eat into tooth enamel, causing cavities.
Coffee isn’t the only beverage with teeth-staining tannins. Red wine, the key element in traditional sangria, is also high in this natural biomolecule. Not only can this summer staple stain your teeth, but acidity from the wine and lime juice could also dissolve your enamel, making it easier for stains to stick.
You know soda isn’t good for your teeth, but did you know that some fruit juice is just as bad? It doesn’t matter if you drink it on its own or mixed with alcohol poolside, fruit juice can be as damaging as soda. Not only does it contain a comparable amount of sugar, but juice also has a high buffering effect, which means its acidity is not easily neutralized. Over time, these acidic attacks demineralize your teeth and cause cavities.
So, what can you drink while enjoying the sunshine and BBQs?
When it comes to oral health, beer is a fairly safe choice, as it’s generally low in sugar and not very acidic. Though some less expensive beers contain tannins that could stain your teeth, the concentrations are usually much lower than in wine or coffee. To be on the safe side, you can always stick to lighter beers such as pale ale or lager.
Watermelons are summer’s MVP! They’re low in calories, contain lots of water, and have a naturally sweet, refreshing juice. Plus, watermelon has no tannins or strong coloring to stain your teeth, and it has a relatively safe pH level (about 1,000 times less acidic than lime juice). It is a good idea to use watermelon juice as a natural sweetener or on its own with fresh mint leaves (and maybe a little rum if the situation calls for it).
No, it’s not fancy or inherently fun, but water is the best beverage for teeth. Water washes away food debris without leaving a sugary or acidic residue and reduces dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay. If you prefer bottled water, remember that you’re not getting the benefits of fluoride, so be sure to supplement by using fluoride toothpaste or rinse.
Our dental practice loves summer as much as you do and don’t want you (or us) to spend these glorious days feeling deprived! Instead of swearing off acidic, colored, or sugary drinks altogether, we suggest enjoying in moderation and doing what you can to minimize the effects. For example, while drinking, try snacking on food that contains calcium (such as cheese) to help prevent stains from sticking to tooth enamel. Additionally, staying hydrated makes it easier to remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth. Of course, maintaining regular dental check-ups is the key to good oral health no matter what season we’re in. Contact our team today to ensure you’re up to date.