Someone recently asked us, “What’s the worst soda for your teeth?” and we realized that’s probably a common question. Everyone knows soda is “bad for your teeth,” but surely some are better than others. Here we’ll explore what it actually does to your teeth, which ones are the worst, and if there are any alternatives.
What soda does to your teeth
Some people think that if they drink a diet soda, the lack of sugar eliminates the risk of cavities. Actually, sugar-free soda is not much better, because it still contains acid – in fact, diet soda often contains more acid than regular soft drinks. Phosphoric acid is primarily used in cola, while citric acid is typically found in citrus-flavored drinks. Phosphoric acid is stronger in most cases, but citric actually tends to be more damaging over the long-run.
Acid levels are ranked on the pH scale where the lower the number, the more acidic the substance is. Battery acid ranks 1.0 on the scale. Studies show that RC Cola ranked 2.39, and most sodas rank near or below a 3. Milk sits around 6.5 on the scale. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, adult fish die in levels 3-5. Acid rain is anywhere from 1-5. Pure water is pH 7, which is neutral.
It’s generally considered that darker-colored soda is slightly worse than light-colored or clear soda. However, both contain astronomically high levels of acid. All soda is destructive to your teeth.
Sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth, which produces an acidic substance. Acid wears away your enamel, which exposes the softer layers of your teeth to dental decay. Whether you drink regular or diet drinks, they both contain high levels of acid, which essentially just skips a step and puts acid in direct contact with your teeth.
- Do: Drink soda through a straw if you want to lower your risk of dental cavities.
- Don’t: Brush your teeth right after drinking an acidic beverage, because you’re basically scrubbing the acid into your enamel. Wait a little while, or rise your mouth with water first.
Drinking pure water is the only way to avoid acid altogether. If you don’t want to give up soft drinks, there are a few options that can still cause damage but are slightly less harmful to your pearly whites.
While still containing high acid levels, root beer has been found to be less acidic than other soda, because it typically doesn’t contain phosphoric or citric acid. Some other drinks still contain acid, but they are typically a little better for your teeth because they are all-natural and/or made primarily with real fruit juice. This means that they probably have lower acid levels but also, they don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup or other tooth-destroyers. This includes drinks like:
Studies found that even fruit juice, which can be quite acidic, is still much less damaging than soda. No matter what you drink, the key is to consume it in moderation balanced by plenty of water. If you continue to brush your teeth, floss and swish with mouthwash every day, you will have a much better chance of fighting cavities and keeping your mouth sparkling clean.
Which Types of Sodas Are the Worst for Your Teeth?
Sodas that are highest in acid (not sugar) are the worst for your teeth.
Here’s how you can protect your teeth when you drink soda:
- Drink soda through a straw to lower your risk of dental cavities
- Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda
- Wait to brush your teeth until later
The sugary fix of soda packs a lot of calories and causes weight gain. It also leads to cavities and ups and downs in energy levels as the sugar rush is followed by a crash. Replacing soda with a few other options has allowed me to keep my smile, my weight, my energy level, and my refreshing breath.
I quit soda
If only we all had your will power. :-) Thanks for stopping by, John!
So can anyone explain in Chemistry terms why citric is more damaging than phosphoric.
Hi Emerson, phosphoric acid is actually the more damaging. Phosphoric has a pH of 2.15, whereas the pH of citric acid is 3.14. Thus, phosphoric is more acidic and consequently more harmful.
For me personally, I find that citric acid (like what’s in Fanta and Lucozade, even Fruit Pastilles) makes my teeth sensitive after a while, although my teeth do lose that sensitivity after a couple of days if I stop consuming citric acid. On the other hand, I find that phosphoric acid (like what’s in Coca-Cola and Pepsi) never makes my teeth sensitive at all. I could drink coke all day and all night and not get sensitive teeth, but those fruit juices seem to get my teeth feeling it pretty fast.
Thank you for that information. Would using a fluoride rinse after a soda mitigate the damage?
Hi Richard, even just rinsing with water after drinking a soda will help mitigate the damage. Damage is usually caused by the acid or sugar lingering on your enamel, so rinsing or brushing after would be effective. Thanks for reading!
i wanted to know if the sour candy straws are bad on kids teeth.
Hi Regina, sour candy in general is particularly bad for your teeth because they tend to be very acidic. Be sure to encourage your children to brush and floss after eating sour candy!
How about before consuming? The plaque on the teeth certainly is a factor!
Hi Dan, it is always a good idea to brush your teeth before and/or after eating anything potentially harmful. Thanks for reading!
Hi: am i correct in thinking soda water(seltzer) plain or flavored is not acidic?
Hi Lenny, soda water typically has a pH of about 3 or 4, making it more on the acidic side. This is because when carbon dioxide gas dissolves, it makes carbonic acid, which is what is found in soda water. However, sometimes alkaline salt is added to soda water to make it less acidic.
Thank you for the informative post. I normally don’t even drink soda, but I have really bad morning sickness right now, and the carbonation does seem to help. If the soda is too acidic it makes it worse, so I was trying to find a balance. I am going to try some Root Beer after reading this post.
Hi Jennifer, hopefully the root beer will help. You might also try a sparkling water to get the carbonation without the acid.
Nobody mentioned anything about the effects Beer will have on your teeth?Any comments!
Hi John, beer is better than most alcohols because of some of the minerals it contains, but it does have some drawbacks. Because beer contains a lot of sugar, it can contribute to tooth decay and the dark color can stain your teeth. Thanks for stopping by!
What is the difference between Veneers and Lumineers? (I hope I spelled it correct)
Hi Dee! The main difference between veneers and lumineers is that while both are permanent, lumineers do have the option of being removed later on if desired. Lumineers are simply placed over the existing teeth, whereas veneers require a filing down of the natural teeth and are then placed on top. Thanks for reading!
I found the blog to be very helpful to y daughters as I don’t drink soda at all. Thanks for the Infor. will pass it around.
Thanks for stopping by, Diane!
I never liked drinking soda and after reading your blog I decided to do a little pH testing my self. You are right that diet sodas are often more acidic then regular, but in each my tests (multiple samples) diet was always less acidic then its counter part i.e. coke to diet coke, pepsi to diet pepsi, and so on. Most of my numbers though were just like you said…in the low 3._ range or the mid 2._ range. SUPER ACIDIC. We need to stop destroying our body.
I also heard something about diet coke being similar to embalming fluid. Just one more reason to not drink the stuff.
Interesting findings, Matthew! Thanks for sharing.
great job! Soda is so bad for our teeth and I think the kids are truly the ones susceptible to this as it not only affects their teeth but their bones in the long term during development.
great post fellows. The other problem we cause by using straws is early wrinkles just like smokers suffer.
Sorry to bring rain to the party.
To our health! !!
That’s an interesting fact, Erick! However, I think it would take a lot of straw-drinking to create wrinkles more noticeable than stained teeth. :-) Thanks for stopping by!
wait a second, i only know root beer soda. those other names are not major soda brand. What about if we compare sodas like pepsi, dr.pepper, fanta and mt. dew?
Hi Paul. Sodas like the ones you mentioned are all generally bad for your teeth because of the sugar and acid levels. The worst one, however, is RC Cola. The other brands mentioned were healthier alternatives, but if you want to stick with the more popular ones, try drinking through a straw to avoid contact of the soda with your teeth. Thanks for stopping by!
Please tell us all about the (fluoride) in the drinking that has been causing problems with our teeth. How do we guard against high levels that cause damage to our teeth.
Theresa, find out more about flouride here. If you’re concerned that your water is flouridated, you can always buy a water filter, or stick to bottled water for drinking.
My dentist said cavities are increasing since more people drink bottled water that does not have the fluoride added to tap water. When I was on well water, we took vitamins with added fluoride as recommended by my doctors.
What is your concern?
I see the comment on carbonated water, but I’m still not clear. Is Deerpark lime (carbonated water) as bad as soda for your teeth? Obviously, no sugar is added, but is the carbonation doing the damage?
Hi Monica, thanks for the question! The carbonation itself is not what does damage to teeth, but the acidic content that causes the carbonation. Check the label of the beverage to be sure, but if you see any form of acid it would be safest to sip through a straw. Hope that helps!
What about carbonated water, i.e. what comes out of the “soda” tab on a self serve soft drink dispenser in a restaurant? How can a consumer get this information by looking at the Nutrients label or by researching on the web?
Carbonated water is water charged with carbon dioxide, which forms carbonic acid. When I worked as a soda jerk once, we would wet a towel with carbonated water and wash the stainless steel surfaces which were spattered with grease. The carbonated water cut the grease and wiped it away!
Nice informative blog. Soda contains high levels of phosphorous that leach calcium from the bones. It damages the enamel on the teeth the same way, which can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss. So it’s better to drink water regularly instead of soda. Thanks for sharing.
Very informative blog. I thought darker-colored soda is more worse than the light-colored or clear soda. Thank you for sharing this new knowledge. I agree that the best of all is drinking water every day. Water is very helpful not only in our teeth but in all parts of our body.