When we consider how to keep our teeth free of troublesome cavities, one of the first things that comes to mind is how we can avoid sugar; but do we really know why? Is sugar the direct cause of cavities?
Tooth enamel is extremely durable; a harder substance than bone. This outer coating of teeth, however, becomes vulnerable when it is exposed to too much acid. Sugar is a substance that is oh so loved by oral bacteria. When these microorganisms eat sugar, they deposit byproduct onto teeth and gums, which leads to plaque. Plaque has a pH of 4.
pH is a scale that measures the acidity of chemicals, much like temperature measures how hot or cold something is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. The lower the number, the more acid content contained in the measured substance. What was that number related to dental plaque? Oh yes, 4. Water has a pH of 7, which sits right in the middle of the scale, making water a neutral substance (that won’t harm teeth!). Each increase in number on the pH scale represents a ten-time increase in acidity. Let’s see how this translates into some of the commonly consumed beverages.
Some of the most consumed beverages are flavored sodas. Without naming names, we’ll look at why it may not only be the sugar in soda that can cause dental problems.
- Popular colas measure about 2.5 pH
- DIET colas are only slightly higher, at approximately 3 to 3.5
- Non-cola beverages like root beer measure in the 4.5 range
- Other non-colas range between 2.3 to 3.7
What about tea and coffee?
- Coffee, black, has a pH of about 5.7
- Iced tea may seem like a healthier alternative to soda, but these products can range between 2.96 to 4.5 pH
One of the biggest dangers we have seen in recent years is the major shift from soft drinks to sports and energy drinks. Here, we will name a few names, simply because many young children consume some of these beverages.
- Gatorade lemon-lime sits just over 3, and the fruit punch flavor at 3.27
- Rock Star energy drinks have a pH of 2.53
Here’s the Kicker!
In the grand scheme of things, what you drink may not seem to matter. Research demonstrates that tooth enamel erodes at 5.5 pH. Looking back over the list now, you can see that it really does.
We are interested in helping our patients make choices that will support a healthy smile for life. We suggest brushing or rinsing after drinking an acidic beverage, and avoidance, as much as possible. Also, stop by to see us every six months.