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What you drink affects your oral health

Changing your diet even a little can go a long way toward protecting your oral health. When we consider changing our diet, however, we often think exclusively of the food we eat; after all, what you drink isn’t in your mouth for long. Unfortunately, the reality is that what you drink leaves behind traces of particles on your teeth, and those can have a huge impact on your oral health. This doesn’t mean you’re stuck just drinking water for the rest of your days, but there are several drinks you may need to cut back on. Here are some of the best (and worst) drinks for your teeth.

The Best:

Milk

Milk is full of vitamins, minerals, and proteins, which makes it great for your teeth. Calcium and phosphorus help to strengthen, and even repair, tooth enamel, while vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus better. Vitamin D also helps fight against gum disease, as it decreases inflammation in your gums. Additionally, milk contains a protein called casein, which fights against tooth decay and protects your enamel by forming a protective film on your teeth. Although milk does have naturally occurring sugar in it, you generally don’t have to worry about milk giving you cavities. If you’re allergic to milk or have a lactose intolerance, you can buy almond milk substitutes with added calcium that provide similar benefits for your teeth.

Green or White Tea

Tea is well-loved across many countries and cultures, but not all tea is equally great for your teeth. Green and white teas are the best types of tea for your teeth. Green, white, and black tea all have a lot of antioxidants, which help fight cavity-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation in your gums, but black tea will stain your teeth yellow over time. Green and white tea, on the other hand, won’t. White tea has the added benefit of being a great natural source of fluoride, which helps to strengthen your enamel. You should be careful about how much sugar or honey you add to your tea, though, as sugar will still have harmful effects on your teeth.

Tap Water

Tap water is a cavity-fighting machine; while sugary drinks leave behind a film of sugar on your teeth for bacteria to feed on, water cleans your mouth with each sip. It flushes out food debris and dilutes the acid produced by the bacteria in your mouth. Most tap water also contains fluoride, which helps to strengthen your enamel, protecting your teeth from tooth decay.

The Worst:

Soda

While it’s one of America’s favorite drinks, soda is incredibly bad for your teeth. It’s full of sugar and is incredibly acidic, eroding your enamel and providing plenty of sugar to feed the bacteria in your mouth. This makes your teeth vulnerable to decay, and this is just as true for diet soda as it is for regular soda. Additionally, the dark color of most sodas means that they tend to stain your teeth yellow over time.

Wine

Unfortunately, red and white wine are both acidic, making them bad for your teeth. Red wine will stain your teeth, which might make it seem like reaching for a glass of white wine is the more tooth-healthy option. White wine has an equal drawback, however, as it’s more acidic and, thus, has a greater negative effect on your enamel. This doesn’t mean you have to cut wine out entirely, though. Eating cheese with your wine will actually create a protective coating on your teeth, protecting them—to some extent—from the wine’s acidic and staining properties.

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice generally has some great vitamins in it, but it tends to be concentrated, meaning it’s very acidic. The acidity level depends on the type of juice, with citrus-based and cranberry juices containing the most acidity. You can still drink fruit juice, but you should drink it in moderation, water it down, or use a straw to drink it. The fruits themselves are generally a better source of nutrients anyway, so it’s better to eat fruit than to simply drink the juice.

Fruit Punch

Fruit punch has all the drawbacks of juice with none of the benefits. Punch rarely has real juice in it, so it lacks the nutrients that are present in real fruit juices. Instead, they’re full of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, both of which will cause cavities. It’s also a little more acidic than real fruit juice, so it’ll erode your enamel if you drink too much of it.

Sports and Energy Drinks

While sports drinks are good for hydration and a great source of electrolytes, making them a popular drink after a workout, they’re not good for your teeth. Sports drinks are packed with sugar and are incredibly acidic, eroding your enamel and making your teeth vulnerable to decay.

You certainly don’t have to stop drinking the beverages you love altogether, but it’s wise to be aware of what your favorite drinks can do to your teeth. While you should limit how much of these drinks you consume, you can take other steps to lessen their impact on your teeth, such as using a straw to limit your drink’s contact with your teeth. It’s also wise to be aware of what drinks can provide benefits for your oral health. Taken together, this knowledge can help you better protect your oral health, helping to ensure that you keep getting a clean bill of health at your dental appointments.