Ever wonder how carbonation gets its fizz? It’s in the name–carbon dioxide. Carbonated beverages, like sodas and sparkling waters, are actually some of the worst things you can expose your teeth enamel to. When you drink, a chemical reaction takes place in your mouth, which turns that carbon dioxide into carbonic acid. Yes, acid. This acid eats away at the enamel of your teeth, weakening them and making them more susceptible to decay, staining, and brittleness. To make matters worse, most carbonated drinks are packed with sugar so your teeth get a double whammy—sugar and acid erosion.
Did you know that you have ingested carbon dioxide gas a lot, especially if you are a soda drinker? Many people know that those bubbles in sodas and other drinks are some type of air. We call that air—or those fizzy bubbles—carbonation, and it’s what happens when carbon dioxide gas mixes with liquid water. When you drink a fizzy drink, you are witnessing a chemical reaction taking place, and ingesting that chemical reaction at the same time.
When a drink is bottled, the pressure used to package and preserve the contents keeps carbonation in its place. The chemical reaction won’t take place until you open up a can or bottle. However, you may physically see a few bubbles here and there with an unopened soda. The real reaction won’t happen until that opening, when carbon dioxide and water have an intense reaction. This is how drinks can bubble over in just a few seconds. When the chemical reaction takes place, a new substance is formed, which is carbonic acid. It’s actually not the carbonation you have to be concerned about, but the carbonic acid that it creates. Even sparkling water is bad for you because of the carbonic acid.
In general, acids aren’t good for your body unless your body naturally creates them for chemical processes and for digestion. With acids that you ingest through drinks with carbonation, those acids can damage your teeth quickly. When an acid hits your teeth, it can take off a layer of your enamel, dissolving it and the minerals your teeth need to stay strong. If you drink carbonation all day long, then you are consistently exposing your teeth to carbonic acid. You are also consistently taking off layers of your teeth. The only reason your teeth don’t wither away to nothing is because every day your mouth is trying to remineralize your teeth by the foods and drinks you ingest.
That means, when you eat dairy products (high in calcium, phosphate and more) and healthy foods, some of the minerals stay in your mouth and build your teeth back up. However, with people who drink soda often instead of water or milk, they are not building their teeth back up as well. Simply brushing your teeth after drinking isn’t good for your tooth enamel either. Studies show that patients should wait between 20 and 30 minutes after drinking carbonation to brush their teeth. If not, they could actually take off more of their enamel because acid is actively sitting on the teeth. If you drink soda often, wait that amount of time and make sure to brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, which can help seal your teeth off to damage.
If you don’t want all the negative side-effects of carbonation on your teeth, an easy solution is to simply stop drinking it! However, many people love carbonated drinks and that tangy fizz that fills their mouth. While avoiding carbonation is the best way to avoid acid damage to your teeth, you can at least reduce that damage if you’re still drinking the fizzy stuff. A good way to limit carbonic acid’s contact with your teeth is to use a straw when sipping sodas and fizzy drinks. Don’t let the soda sit in your mouth with each swallow, as many people do. Straws can help with drinking.
Many soda drinkers tend to drink more soda than healthier drinks during their day. Try swapping out one of your sodas each day (or even just a few times a week) to limit how much your teeth are getting exposed to acids. Keeping up on your oral hygiene routine will also keep your teeth healthier. Make sure you follow the American Dental Association’s recommendation to brush your teeth at least twice a day with quality, ADA-approved toothpaste. Floss at least 1-2 times as well, making sure to floss up into the gumline, scraping your teeth as you move the floss down. One of the most important dental recommendations is to also visit the dentist at least twice a year. If you are a soda drinker, the dentist can let you know what the damage to your teeth looks like and how to keep your teeth healthier.
Did you know that drinks with carbonation aren’t the only ones you need to worry about? You can also damage your teeth if you drink citrus drinks. Why? Citrus fruits and drinks contain citric acid, which makes them taste sour. Follow the same guidelines for brushing your teeth with citrus drinks as you would drinks with carbonation. Sports drinks and juices are also bad for your tooth enamel because they contain very high amounts of sugar. Sugar is the food bacteria needs to make plaque, which is the substance that decays your teeth. The more sugar you ingest, the more your teeth can decay.
A good tip is to drink water and milk as often as possible instead of drinks containing carbonation or various acids. Choose sugar-free juice options as well, that generally taste the same without all the sugar. If you want to see how your tooth health is doing, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies for your dental exam at (970) 223-8425!