Top 10 Worst Drinks for Your Teeth

Updated on July 19, 2018
Faceless39 profile image

I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, and many other things!

Highly acidic fruit juices can be extremely harmful to the teeth
Highly acidic fruit juices can be extremely harmful to the teeth | Source

Are you aware that fruit juice is bad for the teeth?

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The Prevalence of Tooth Decay

I don't know about you, but in the few decades I've been alive, I've already noticed a huge change in people's eating and drinking habits.

In the 1980s I still thought of pop as something special, similar to the way I thought of going to a fast food restaurant once in a while as a special treat. There wasn't as much selection of candies or sodas, and it seems like there was far less focus on them then than now. Now it's not uncommon to hear of people being proud of how much pop they drink.

While pop is bad for teeth, most people don't realize that fruit juice, especially orange juice, can be equally bad.

A three-year CDC study of 16,000 US residents showed 28% of children aged between 2-5 have some form of tooth decay.1

In the UK, tooth decay is the "third most common reason for children to be admitted to [the] hospital."2

These statistics are obviously disturbing and are a window through which we can view a social norm that has gone a little out of control. Lots of factors need to be taken into account, but a few things are obvious: we drink too much pop, too often; we don't brush as often as we should; and we put our kids to bed with bottles of milk, juice, or soda that overnight creates the perfect environment for dental decay.


Soft Drinks Have Gotten Huge

Back in the 1950s (I've heard), soft drinks were a lot smaller than they are today. Going to get a Coke was seen as a special event, and if you've ever seen how small those glass bottles were, you'll know what I'm getting at here.

At the beginning of its mainstream popularity, we'd drink a 6.5 ounce soft drink and be thrilled to death with the experience. Now the standard or "average" size soft drink is 24 ounces--over 3 times larger--and we drink them much more often. Yet this is not the upper limit in size.

Soft drinks in the US have gotten so ridiculously huge that The Onion published a mock news story claiming Coke's newest size was 30 liters. Funny as this may seem, it's unfortunate that we need to joke about this because the results of over-consumption are often devastating.

Soft drinks are bigger than ever before
Soft drinks are bigger than ever before | Source

What Causes Cavities to Form?

While knowledge of oral hygiene and proper preventive measures has greatly improved since the 1950s, the prominence and availability of candy, pop, and junk food has skyrocketed since then. More than ever, it's important to learn about the foods and drinks that can harm our teeth and bodies, and learn to promote better eating and oral hygiene habits.

Four ingredients are needed for tooth decay to begin:

  • Oral bacteria
  • Sugar
  • Acid
  • Time

All four of these ingredients need to be present for tooth decay to begin. Oral bacteria (Strep. mutans) are present in the mouth naturally. Food, especially carbohydrates, breaks down into sugar. Bread starts to break down in the mouth right away, giving off a sweet taste, for example. Acid comes in the form of soft drinks, citric acid, etc.

Streptococcus mutans causes cavities
Streptococcus mutans causes cavities | Source

What happens when all these ingredients combine? Oral bacteria consume sugar and expel lactic acid into the oral cavity. This lactic acid leaches calcium phosphate crystals from the teeth, causing soft spots (white spot lesions) in the protective enamel coating of the teeth.

At this point, the teeth can either continue to be leached of calcium phosphate crystals, or else can begin to remineralize and reverse the decay process. Toothpastes (OTC or prescription) help remineralize teeth, as do some mouth rinses like ACT Restoring Mouthwash.

Saliva naturally restores oral pH and helps remineralize the teeth, but be aware that saliva flow decreases at night and when taking certain medications. Reversing the decay process only works in the initial stages of decay before an actual cavity forms.


Sip All Day, Get Decay

To make this all a little more complex, what research has found is that each time we sip a sugary drink, there is an "acid attack" on our teeth for 16-20 minutes.

Each new sip we take, the clock starts over. So if it takes me an hour to finish a can of Coke, my teeth have been sloshing around in acid for an hour and 20 minutes.

Obviously, it's better to gulp the drink down and be done with it, preferably with a meal. Now that we know that both sugar and acid affect our likelihood of developing cavities, let's look at a helpful list of the worst drinks for your teeth.

Top 10+ Worst Drinks for Your Teeth

More than 10 drinks are listed here for your convenience. It's difficult to rate them, as we have to take into account both the sugar and acid content to judge how they'll affect the teeth.

Any 10 of these drinks are bad news for teeth unless efforts are taken to minimize their effects.

Sip All Day, Get Decay
Sip All Day, Get Decay | Source

Other Drinks that Contribute to Tooth Decay

These drinks are sugary, acidic, or both.

  • Dairy milk (slightly acidic, very sugary)
  • Goat milk (slightly acidic, sugary)
  • Soy milk (slightly acidic, potentially sugary)
  • Energy drinks (very acidic, very sugary)
  • Protein shakes (sugary)
  • Wine (very acidic, very sugary)
  • Beer (acidic, sugary)
  • Tea (very acidic, potentially sugary)
  • Coffee (very acidic, potentially sugary)
  • Smoothies (very acidic, very sugary)
  • All fruit juices (very acidic, very sugary)
  • Some bottled waters (slightly acidic, potentially sugary)
  • Carbonated beverages (very acidic, potentially sugary)

Were you aware that these drinks can contribute to tooth decay?

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How to Minimize the Damage

  • Brushing your teeth after each meal is the best way to decrease the likelihood of developing cavities
  • Swishing your mouth out with water after drinking these beverages can help decrease the amount of acid contacting the teeth
  • Chewing sugar-free gum or anything with xylitol will also help minimize the damage
  • Drink sugary and acidic beverages with meals, and never before bedtime unless you plan to brush your teeth before sleeping
  • Using a straw also helps decrease contact of these drinks with the teeth
  • Other drinks that contribute to tooth decay (sugary, acidic, or both): dairy milk, soy milk, energy drinks, protein shakes, wine, beer, tea, coffee, smoothies, all fruit juices, some bottled waters

Use a straw to minimize damage to teeth
Use a straw to minimize damage to teeth | Source

Further Reading

Here are a couple of related articles I wrote:

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Kate P


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      • Shyron E Shenko profile image

        Shyron E Shenko 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Kate, thank you for the information. I love water and drink lots, and I drink a lot of coffee, and aware of the acid. Also the acid in any fruit drink.

        This is an informative article.

        Blessings and Merry Christmas

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        2 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        Thanks for all of your comments. Mom was indeed likely right.. after all lol

      • profile image

        Parker Boudreau 

        3 years ago

        Well I guess this means that mom was right. The hard part is that soda is so stinking delicious. I have tried to quit that habit for years. The big difference now is that as an adult i know the danger and brush my teeth a lot better than when i was a kid. I hope it balances out.

      • profile image

        haylee l 

        4 years ago

        thanks faceless now i have info for my science fair prodject

      • AvineshP profile image

        Avinesh Prahladi 

        4 years ago from Chandigarh

        This is a great and informative hub. thanks Faceless39, for letting us know as how drinks can be dangerous for our teeth.

      • Quoteslover profile image

        Quotes Lover 

        4 years ago

        A helpful article

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        Pop really is best avoided if possible, both for the dental issues it causes, as well as the overall physiological changes it causes and carcinogenic nature of the ingredients.

        I admit I have one once in a while, but it's definitely not a lifestyle thing, and it sounds like you've changed yours as well. Bravo!

        Thanks for the wonderful comment.

      • internpete profile image

        Peter V 

        5 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

        Wow, lots of interesting information. I have been drinking less and less soda over the last year or so because it just isn't good for you. Now that I read this hub, I don't think I ever want soda again! Good info. Voted up !

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        The sugar and acid chart has 10 of the worst drinks, plus more. It's difficult to categorize them since they contain more or less acid, more or less sugar. Thanks for the comment.

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        What happened to the top 10 drinks? Did I skip over it somewhere?

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        Water really is the best beverage, I agree. Though I admit I have a pop once in a while!

        It's not just the sugar and acid; it's also the coloring, the preservatives, and all the other junk they put in there as well. It's good once in a while, but water is always good!

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        Excellent Hub! Learned something new. Glad I love water.

      • katyzzz profile image


        6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

        Great hub, I think I'll just stick to water, and forget the carbs, a sound warning.

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        Thanks for the fantastic comments--it's always great to know that others appreciate the work put into these things. If I make the difference in one person's life, I've done my job. @ktrapp, great idea about the school lunches hub. @caitmo, you are totally right! "It's never too late!" @Sunshine, I'm really glad you learned about the acid attack!! :) Thanks again!

      • Sunshine625 profile image

        Linda Bilyeu 

        6 years ago from Orlando, FL

        I pressed the green button! Great hub, I never thought about sipping a soda and the acid attack! Ewww. I do chew the sugar free gum! Thanks for the info :)

      • caitmo1 profile image


        6 years ago from Lancashire England

        I wish I had read this 60 years ago!

        As a child I loved sweets and anything sugary - I even had 'sugar butties' - that's bread buttered thickly and sugar on top! Even though sweets were rationed for many years after the war I still managed to get some. My teeth have more fillings and veneers, crowns etc than I would like but I am careful now - it's never too late.

        A good article.

      • ktrapp profile image

        Kristin Trapp 

        6 years ago from Illinois

        This was really interesting. I grew up drinking well water and cavities were almost a given because of the lack of flouridation. At least we didn't have near as many sugary drinks and snacks. Where I live now the water is flouridated and I've never had a cavity issue since living with treated water and many college-age kids have never had one.

        You could also write about what not to pack in school lunches. I have heard that raisins and pretzels are bad because they stay on your teeth. Great hub - voting up and useful.

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        Thanks for the awesome comments! And yup, sorry ThoughtSandwiches, Mt. Dew is considered the #1 offender in dental circles. For some reason it attracts caffeine and sugar addicts more than any other beverage. Swish some water after and you'll be fine!

      • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


        6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

        Well crap...Mountain Dew was on the list. I was initially heartened by the fact that Coke was the evil bastard (you know...Mountain Dew being a Pepsi product) however; it would appear they are all in cahoots! I can see that you have not been wasting your time in dental school stuff!

      • diydiva profile image

        Kay Mitchell 

        6 years ago from California

        Good to know. I haven't kicked my bad smoking habit, so my teeth definitely get enough damage. I'll be sure to limit my drinking of these.

      • MattyLeeP profile image


        6 years ago from Tucson, AZ

        Wow, thats good to know. Thanks for the info and the tips, I will for sure use this. Going to go rinse my mouth right now with water!

      • mydubaistay profile image


        6 years ago from Dubai

        I know fizzy drinks are so harmful but they are so tempting. Its so sad to see our dependency in these drinks.

      • Admiral_Joraxx profile image


        6 years ago from Philippines

        Very useful information faceless, then we really needs to watch over the things we drink, It's sad, those which are so enticing for the taste buds are the most tooth damaging. Maybe just a controlled intake will be benificial. I voted up and useful


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