Cheers! The Facts About pH and Your Summer Drink

pH Spectrum

Are Your Summer Drinks
Hurting Your Teeth?


Let’s face it. It has been a hot few weeks of summer here in San Diego, and there is nothing better than an ice cold drink on a hot summer day. But choosing the best drink for your smile is not always an easy task. Some of the most common frosty beverages are loaded with sugars and acids that can attack your tooth enamel. Read on to learn more about how to protect your teeth from your favorite summer drinks.

Let’s Talk pH
In chemistry, pH is a numeric scale used to describe how acidic or basic a substance is. It is a logarithmic measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of an aqueous solution. WHAT?! Let’s simplify with an example. Plain water is considered neutral with a pH of approximately 7. The lower the pH, the more acidic the beverage is. The higher the pH, the more basic (alkaline) the beverage is.

There’s a Battle in Your Mouth
Your teeth are frequently under attack by acids, but the good news is this damage is constantly being reversed. Acids leech minerals from the enamel through a process called demineralization. Demineralization or loss of tooth enamel, begins at a pH of 5.5 Tooth enamel is a crystalline structure, and acids interfere with the chemical bonds that hold the molecules of enamel together. If your teeth are exposed to acidic substances for a prolonged period of time or with high frequency, over time, the enamel will slowly dissolve. Drinks that are acidic and contain sugar are even worse for your teeth. Acidic drinks soften the enamel, often requiring hours to harden to its original strength. When enamel is soft, and sugar in the drinks increases the amount of plaque, which produces more acid, it is easier for teeth to decay.

Fortunately, the natural process of remineralization replaces those minerals and strengthens the teeth all over again – and your saliva is a key player. Saliva contains minerals such as calcium and phosphates to help repair the teeth. Fluoride is another mineral that helps repair weakened enamel. However, replacing lost minerals can only do so much to prevent the effects of sugar on teeth if you eat lots of sweets and starches throughout the day. Limiting your sugar intake is vital if you want to give your mouth a fighting chance to fix the damage.

The Details
The most common causes of acid erosion are popular beverages like sodas. Take a look at the average pH measurements of some popular drinks below. Remember:
~ More Acidic = the smaller the number, the lower the pH, the stronger the acid
~ Less Acidic = the higher the number, the higher the pH, the weaker the acid

Drink (12oz serving)   pH      Sugar (tsp)
Water                                   7.0            0
Milk (2% or skim)              6.8           3.5
Chocolate Milk                   6.7            6
A&W Root Beer                 4.3            0
Beer                                      4.4           0
Sprite                                    3.4           10
Juicy Juice                           3.5           4.6
Red Wine                             3.5            2.1
Apple Juice                          3.4           10
Diet Coke                             3.4           0
Propel Fitness Water        3.4            1
Orange Juice                       4.0           7
Red Bull                               3.3           8.5
Mountain Dew                    3.2           11
White Wine                         3.3           3.2
Sweet Tea (bottled)           3.0           7
Gatorade                              2.9           5.5
Dr. Pepper                           2.9           9.5
Hawaiian Punch                 2.8          10.2
Powerade                             2.7           4
Monster Energy                  2.7          9.5
Capri Sun                             2.6          5.5
Minute Maid Lemonade   2.6          5.4
SoBe Energy Citrus            2.6          12
Coca Cola Classic               2.5           8.9
Pepsi                                     2.5           11


The Reality
Constant vigilance is the key to preventing the negative effects of acids on teeth. Almost all of these very popular beverages measure in with an acidic pH! Some are worse than others, but the more of these beverages that you can remove from your diet, the better for your teeth. It’s not probable that you will avoid these drinks every single day for the rest of your life, but when you do, you can neutralize their impact on your teeth and reduce acid erosion.

1. Drink in Moderation
Try to drink acidic beverages at mealtimes, or during limited time frames. If you sip them all day, you will expose your teeth to acids continuously.

2. Consume Sugary or Acidic Drinks with Meals
Your mouth makes more saliva during meals, and this helps to reduce the effect of acid production and to rinse pieces of food from the mouth.

3. Consume Healthy Foods that Strengthen Teeth
Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, kefir and cheese, have plenty of calcium and phosphorous that can help strengthen teeth enamel and help with re-mineralization. They also promote saliva secretion, which can have a preventative effect, as saliva protects teeth against bacteria and balances the mouth’s pH level. Fibrous vegetables can help protect teeth and its enamel by cleaning the surface of the teeth. Studies have shown that foods high in anitoxidents, protein, Vitamin D, and calcium are not only good for your body, but good for your teeth!

4. Use a Straw
Using a straw can help reduce the amount of direct contact with most of your teeth. Acidic beverages will still lower the pH of the mouth and expose the teeth to acid, so don’t think you are safe to sip all day just because you use a straw.

5. Drink More Water
Drinking water ensures a clean mouth, since it washes away trapped debris between teeth that serves as a breeding ground for enamel-harming bacteria. It is also advisable to swish and rinse with water after drinking or eating acidic or enamel-dissolving foods, to help dilute and neutralize the acid and keep the harsh foods from dissolving tooth enamel.

6.  Don’t Brush Immediately
You know you should brush your teeth at least twice a day. But after your teeth have been exposed acid, your tooth enamel is in a weakened state. Drink or rinse with water and wait 20-30 minutes to allow the chemical bonds to re-stabilize.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, just call our office. Meanwhile… brush, floss, and smile!

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