In recognition of National Children’s Dental Health Month, the Marion County Public Health Department’s (MCPHD) dental health department is teaching children and their parents about the harmful effects of acidic drinks on teeth.
“Many drinks aren’t as healthy as you may think,” said Tonya Stewart, DDS, director of dental health services for the MCPHD. “Sports drinks and juices contain as much, or more, enamel-eroding acid as soda.”
Dr. Stewart wants parents to realize that the healthiest drinks their children can consume are water and milk.
When the acid in many trendy drinks comes in contact with teeth, it softens the enamel and causes dental erosion. The increased consumption of soda and trendy drinks is causing a rise in the dental problems that 50 years of public health initiatives—such as fluoridated water and dental sealants—were previously guarding against.
Many drinks that are high in acid also contain a lot of sugar. Sugar feeds the bacteria that causes tooth decay and overwhelms the positive effects of fluoride.
Some examples of drinks with high acidity are: diet Schweppes tonic water, Minute Made® lemonade and Minute Made® orange juice, SoBe Energy Citrus, Gatorade®, Full Throttle energy drink, Diet Coke, Propel® Fitness Water. (These results were found in a test by Dr. John Ruby, University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Dentistry, 2007.)
There are some things you can do to minimize the effects of sugar and acid when consuming soda and sports drinks:
Drink the beverage in one sitting quickly. Slowly sipping on a soda causes a steady stream of enamel eroding acid. It is much better for one’s teeth to drink a soda quickly, rather than slowly.
Use a straw. This will minimize the drink’s contact with teeth and gums.
Drink water after finishing a soda or sports drink. This rinses the mouth removing some of the acidity and sugars.
Dehydration also plays a role in acid erosion. After working up a sweat, it is always better to reach for water before a sports drink. Acid in sports drinks causes more damage in a dry mouth than a hydrated one.
“Sports drinks have their benefits, but they are harming your teeth,” said Dr. Stewart. She advises everyone to drink some water after exercising before reaching for a sports drink
Through dental clinics, the Smile Mobile and through education, the health department is interested in developing a lifetime of good dental habits by beginning dental visits no later than a child’s first birthday.
A visible part of the dental services program is the Smile Mobile. The shimmering white clinic on wheels with its multi-colored smiley faces dotting the exterior makes hundreds of stops throughout the county annually and serves thousands of children. Among the many benefits of the Smile Mobile is its ability to reach large groups of people at one time. The Smile Mobile also provides needed dental services to people who may find transportation an obstacle to receiving care.
Besides the Smile Mobile, the dental services program has five clinic sites, three school-based clinics and is a partner in the Indianapolis homeless shelter initiative.
For more information about the dental program, call the health department at (317) 221-2329.