Although teeth are the hardest parts of our bodies, they do have one weakness: they can be easily destroyed by acid. Acid is the weapon of choice that plaque use to ruin our teeth and they can be found in many of the drinks that we consume.
The acidity of substances is measured using the pH scale. The lower the pH a drink has, the more acidic the it is. Many common beverages have a low pH, which means that they contain a lot of acid.
Our saliva normally has a pH of right around 6.5, which is a healthy pH for the teeth. When the pH of our mouth gets to 5.5 or below, the enamel on our teeth starts to dissolve. When you drink something that has a pH lower than 5.5, it starts to eat away at your teeth. Of course, you can drink these drinks and still have healthy teeth, there are a lot of factors involved. I’ll get in to a few of them at the end of the list. Here they are:
Nine Drinks that Can Dissolve Your Teeth
1. Sports Drinks – While sports drinks are great for re-hydration, their acidic nature can cause them to be harmful to your teeth. The two leading brand names both have a pH of less than 3.
- Powerade is the most acidic at a pH of 2.75
- Gatorade has a pH of 2.95
2. Fruit Juice – Fruit juice is good for you, but if you have the option, it’s always best to eat whole fruits as they are better for your teeth, and contain fiber to help your digestive system. Here are the pH’s of some common juices:
- Orange juice has a pH of 3.5
- Apple juice has a pH of 3.2
- Pineapple juice has a pH of 3.4
- Grapefruit juice has a pH of 3.1
- Juicy Juice has a pH of around 3.5
- Cranberry juice has a pH of 2.6
- Welch’s White Grape Juice has a pH of 2.8
- Lemon juice has a pH of 2.0
3. Soda or Pop or Coke – Whatever you prefer to call this carbonated wonder, it has extremely low pH levels. Any carbonated drink will have a low pH because the carbon dioxide can readily combine with water to create carbonic acid. Here are some examples of the high acidity of soda pop:
- Coca Cola and Pepsi have a pH of 2.5
- Dr. Pepper has a pH of 2.7
- Mountain Dew has a pH of 2.9
- Sierra Mist has a pH of 3.0
- Squirt has a pH of 2.85
- Sprite has a pH of 3.42
- Mug Root Beer has a pH of 3.9, Dad’s Root Beer has a pH of 4, A&W Root Beer has a pH of 4.3, and Barq’s (even with all of it’s “bite”) only has a pH of 4.6
4. Vegetable Juice – Even healthy vegetable juice such as V8 has a low pH. Vegetable juice usually has a pH right around 4.1. It is the tomato juice that is the main cause of the acidity.
5. Fruit Flavored Drinks – A lot of fruit flavored drinks contain artificial flavors. In order to provide a delicious, tangy taste many manufacturers add citric acid and other acids to their beverages. Here are the pH’s of some common fruit flavored drinks:
- Snapple has a pH of 2.4
- Sunny Delight has a pH of 2.4
- Capri Sun drink varieties have a pH of around 2.6
- Country Time Lemonade has a pH of 2.5
- SoBe Tropical Sugar-free has a pH of 2.5
- Hawaiian Punch has a pH of 2.82
- Hi-C Blast Fruit Punch has a pH of 2.7
- Tang has a pH of 2.7
6. Iced Tea – While normal brewed tea has a pH of 7.2, its “iced” counterpart brings a lot of acid into your mouth.
- Regular Iced Tea has a pH of about 3.5
- Snapple Tea has a pH of 3.2
- Nestea Sweetened Lemon Iced Tea has a pH of 2.97
- Nestea has a pH of 3.04
- Lipton Brisk has a pH of 2.87
7. Flavored Water – I used to drink Propel flavored water a lot. It seemed like a better choice than water since it tasted better to me, had zero calories, and came in a variety of flavors. However, Propel water has a very low pH of 3.2 which means it is able to dissolve tooth structure.
8. Wine and Beer - Many wines are quite acidic. A typical sherry-wine has a pH of 3.37. California chardonnay has a pH of 3.4. In general, sweeter wines will have more acid added by the winemaker to balance out the sweetness. To learn more about the pH of wine, head on over to The Acidity of Wine at Wine Perspective.
The pH of beer can range from 3.7 to 4.1.
9. Buttermilk – Buttermilk has a pH of anywhere from 4.41 to 4.83 depending on the brand. It’s not too bad, but since it is below the 5.5 threshold, I thought it was worth mentioning.
What Drinks Don’t Dissolve Teeth?
I know… That list seems a bit intimidating. Maybe it sounds like I want you to avoid drinking anything that tastes good. That’s not true, because even if you do drink these drinks, your teeth wil be fine as long as they are consumed in moderation.
There are a few drinks that aren’t acidic. Coffee, while still slightly acidic, only has a pH of 5.5 so it is just above the threshold where teeth start to dissolve. Of course some coffee beans do approach closer to 5.0 and some are over 6, depending on where they are grown. Milk has a pH of 6.8, while soy milk weighs in at a pH of 7. Of course, water has a neutral pH of 7.
Why Haven’t My Teeth Dissolved Yet?
As I mentioned above, you can drink all of these drinks and still have healthy teeth. The degree of erosion depends on three key factors:
- How often you drink these drinks
- How pH – The lower the pH, the faster tooth erosion occurs
- How long the drink stays in contact with your teeth
I’ll be honest, I love drinking orange juice for breakfast. I love the pulp, and often I find myself savoring it in my mouth before swallowing. Keeping it in my mouth increases the amount of time that the juice has with my teeth, which gives the acid in the juice more time to eat away at my teeth. For this reason, I usually drink some water right after drinking the orange juice to help get the acid out of my mouth and away from my teeth.
How to Reduce Tooth Erosion
Here’s a few tips you can use to reduce tooth erosion:
- Don’t slowly sip acidic drinks. If you are going to drink an acidic drink, do it as quickly as possible to decrease the contact time with your teeth.
- Drink acidic drinks through a straw. By using a straw, you are pushing the drinks directly to the back of your mouth and avoiding some of the contact that the acid has with your teeth.
- Rinse your mouth out after drinking acidic drinks to help flush away some of the acid. Drinking water or milk can help.
- Don’t brush your teeth right after consuming acidic beverages. The acid in the drinks can eat away some of the mineral content of your teeth, leaving behind a soft matrix. Calcium in your saliva can eventually replace the lost tooth structure. However, if you brush right after consuming acidic drinks, you could brush away that enamel matrix, making it impossible for your saliva to repair the damage done by the acidic drink.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to completely avoid the drinks I mentioned above. Moderation is the key.
Do you have any questions, comments, or stories dealing with these drinks and tooth erosion? Share them in the comments!