We’ve talked a lot about foods in the past and even spent a blog or two on red wine or the effects of leaving your baby with a bottle for an extended period of time. We’ve never fully explored the topic of drinking however. In terms of being mindful of what passes through our lips, over our teeth and around our gums, liquids do all of that and more. With that in mind, today it seems appropriate to spend some time talking about what we drink and the potential impact on our teeth, mouth and gums.
We will start with something easy. Water. Well, as it turns out water isn’t just plain and simple. I mean there are so many “kinds” of water these days. Bottled water, flavoured water, bubbly water and water from exotic locales not to mention good ol’ tap water! What should you be drinking? Water from a tap, if you live here in North America, is most likely to contain fluoride and fluoride is a good thing. We have talked about the benefits of fluoride in previous posts and certainly, most Dentists and indeed the CDA feel that drinking fluoridated water is a good thing. The CDA website states: “Provided that the total daily intake of fluoride is carefully monitored, fluoride is considered to be a most important health measure in maintaining oral health for all Canadians.” (1)
The problem with most bottled water is that it does not contain any fluoridation so by consuming bottled water you are missing out on a naturally occurring opportunity to protect your teeth. Additionally, frankly not all bottled water is created the same way with some varieties claiming health benefits, some being disputed as just distilled tap water, and still other controversies surrounding the origin of certain brands. Not too mention the plastic and waste involved. (That’s a topic for another blogger not me!) Since “bubbly” or carbonated/mineral water is in this category too, we should talk about the impact of bubbles on your teeth. Impact? Yes there can be an impact from drinking too much of the bubbly stuff. The reality is that the actual process of carbonization (simply adding pressurized carbon dioxide gas to water) does not necessarily increase your risk of tooth decay. However, the acidic level in fizzy water is actually quite high and can have a detrimental impact on tooth enamel over time. Some bubbly beverages are actually more acidic than vinegar! Additionally, if you are also drinking a beverage that contains added sugars and/or salt, your risk does begin to rise. Added flavourings that contain sugars in carbonated beverages will act the same as any soda would and too much drinking along with too little brushing and your teeth will be in trouble.
It goes without saying that juice, pop and even energy drinks that contain colourings, sugars and other additives can have a harmful effect on your teeth and their use should be carefully monitored. In children, providing water for thirst is always best but diluting juice will help with the prevention of sugary build up on teeth. Even 100% natural juices still contain naturally occurring sugars, as does a glass of milk. We would never suggest that you stop providing milk to your children because of course there are many other benefits to drinking it. Just be mindful of the fact that it does contain the naturally occur sugar called lactose and that, as in many other circumstances, a good brushing after consuming either food or drink containing sugars, is never a bad thing.
Water, juice, pop and milk. What’s left? Alcohol. Even if you are the most responsible adult chances are you may have consumed a drop or two of some type of alcoholic beverage. Here too the problem is not in the consumption (if, as in all things, it was in moderation) rather, the issue is in what happens next. Red wine for example can and will stain the teeth and all alcohol also contains both acids and sugars. Ideally, as in every other example, brushing and rinsing after consumption is a necessary component of a good overall oral health care regime.
Finally, there is tea and coffee. These too contain staining agents and depending on whether you add milk and sugar, can also cause potential tooth decay. Tea, because of its higher tannins, actually has more potential to stain teeth than coffee does. Drinking water and/or rinsing with water after consumption of either beverage can help prevent a build up on the enamel of your teeth, a build up that causes yellow staining over time. Again, brushing after drinking is optimal.
Another sure-fire way to help prevent potential tooth decay from the consumption of ANY of these beverages is to drink them through a straw. Doing so means that a significant portion of the liquid is missing the teeth altogether, thereby reducing your risks. Of course, it might look a little silly to drink your red wine through a straw and we’re not entirely sure a hot beverage can safely be consumed this way but if you’re concerned about your teeth it might just be worth considering! Our advice? Drink plenty of water. It has health benefits on so many levels. Enjoy everything else, in moderation and brush your teeth regularly. As always – thanks for reading and “don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”