Cavities: How sugary drinks cause tooth decay

by | September 30, 2022 | TMJ4 Morning Blend

“Sip all day, get decay.”  Soda, juice, and other sugary drinks may have more sugar than you expect — and can have even more sugar than a candy bar! Exposing your teeth to prolonged periods of sugar and acid can cause severe and widespread cavities. People know that sugar in soda is bad for your teeth and can cause cavities but may not realize how much sugar is actually in drinks.

Sugary drinks and tooth decay: 8 sugary drinks labeled with the amount of sugar they contain

Sugar is bad for your teeth because it jumpstarts the cavity process. Bacteria in your mouth metabolize sugar into acid, which weakens your tooth and breaks down the enamel and dentin, forming a cavity. It is a dynamic disease that occurs in phases of demineralizing and remineralizing enamel and dentin. The acid makes the enamel and dentin weaker, and eventually, you can get soft areas in the tooth that form a hole.

Sipping on sugary or acidic drinks can cause a lot of damage to your teeth, especially if you sip all day. After taking a bite of food or a sip of a drink, it takes saliva 20 minutes to return your mouth’s pH to normal. During that time, there is an acid attack on your teeth and the cavity process can start. Sipping soda every so often over a period of hours exposes teeth to prolonged acid attacks, increasing the risk of decay. Diet drinks seem like a good alternative to sugary drinks, but sipping acidic drinks all day can also weaken enamel and dentin.

There are many things you can do to help prevent cavities and protect your teeth from sugary drinks. While it is healthier to avoid sugary drinks in general, if you do indulge you should drink your sugary drink with your meals or within a short period of time. This allows your saliva to return the mouth to a normal pH as soon as possible and limits any damage. Drinking with a straw and rinsing with water after sugary drinks can also reduce exposure to sugar. It is also essential to maintain good oral hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing. However, if you do drink acidic drinks, wait 30 minutes to brush or you could brush away enamel faster! 

Draver Dental can also help protect your teeth. Our team can ensure cavities are detected as soon as possible and treat them with fillings if needed.

Another preventative and protective treatment is a fluoride treatment. Children often get fluoride treatments, but adults that have a high cavity rate or high sugar diet can also receive fluoride treatments at their checkups.  We are also happy to review home care tips to minimize your cavity risk and keep your teeth cavity-free.

TMJ4 Morning Blend correspondent Stephanie Brown, Milwaukee dentist Dr. Hannah Draver, TMJ4 Morning Blend multimedia producer Ben Russano

Left to right: TMJ4 Morning Blend correspondent Stephanie Brown, dentist Dr. Hannah Draver, and TMJ4 Morning Blend multimedia producer Ben Russano at Draver Dental in Shorewood, Wisconsin.

The video segment above featuring Dr. Hannah Draver and Stephanie Brown originally aired on September 30, 2022 during The Morning Blend on Milwaukee’s TMJ4.