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