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Which drinks are the most damaging for your oral health?

Some drinks are highly publicised by the media as being bad for your teeth, such as the carbonated and sugary drinks that are now subject to the UK’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy, often known as the ‘sugar tax’. Fruit juices are also well-known culprits when it comes to oral health because of their high acidity levels. However, you may be surprised to find out that several other types of drinks can also have a significant negative impact on tooth erosion if intake is not moderated and other steps not taken; both for adults and children.

Fruit teas

Fruity teas are often seen as a healthier alternative to regular tea, but a study in 2018, by Kings College London, found that the acidity in many fruity teas, drunk twice a day between meals, was found to be a significant factor in tooth erosion. Fruit flavourings in these types of drinks were found to increase the erosive potential to a level similar as fizzy, sugary soft drinks.

Diet/sugar-free soft drinks

The same study also found that sugar-free soft drinks are no less erosive on teeth than those sweetened with sugar, due to their acidic nature.

Caffeinated drinks

Whether they are served hot or cold, drinks containing high levels of caffeine reduce saliva production, which increases the likelihood of tooth erosion. This can be counteracted somewhat by drinking plenty of water afterwards.

Milk or milky drinks

Milk is commonly cited as being good for teeth, as it’s high in calcium. However, if drunk before bed (after having brushed teeth) then the lactose is a form of sugar that can attack teeth. Milky drinks with added sugars, such as chocolate milk, can be especially harmful to teeth.

The way that you drink is nearly as important as what you drink when it comes to tooth erosion

The Kings College London study found that hot drinks like fruit teas, which are sipped slowly, are more likely to cause tooth erosion than the same drink served cold, as it’s likely to pass through the mouth more quickly when cool.

People such as wine tasters, who hold the acidic liquid in their mouth and swish it around for longer than normal wine drinkers, can also be at higher risk of tooth erosion.

The lead author of the study, Dr Saoirse O’Toole, said: “It is well known that an acidic diet is associated with erosive tooth wear, however our study has shown the impact of the way in which acidic food and drinks are consumed.”

Many drinks that are consumed slowly and between meals can mean that teeth are subjected to repeated exposure to high sugar and acid levels; so, the more water drunk between meals, the better for our oral health.

The consequences of dental erosion

Dental erosion is caused by acid attacking the teeth, and over time this wears away the enamel, exposing the dentine underneath; this often results in sensitivity or pain and may require fillings or further dental treatment if the erosion continues.

Your dentist should be able to diagnose if you have enamel erosion or other dental issues if you make regular visits, and will discuss your treatment options, as well as offering advice on how to avoid any further damage being done.

If you feel that your dentist has let you down, has failed to diagnose dental issues and you have suffered pain and had to undergo other treatment as a result, you may be eligible to make a dental negligence claim. Contact the Dental Law Partnership for free initial legal advice to discuss the next steps, on 0808 231 8281.