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Keep Your Smile Bright, No Dentist Needed

Keep Your Smile Bright, No Dentist Needed

Love coffee and tea? But afraid they may be trashing your teeth? No worries. Sure, they leave stains, but sports drinks and bubbly sodas actually wear away enamel -- even from teeth that have been coated with fluoride.

If your tooth enamel starts to erode, you've got trouble. It's basically like opening the door to a whole village of bacterial squatters who will severely ding up and maybe even total the teeth they take over. In one study, all carbonated drinks had some impact on tooth enamel, but citrus-flavored sodas -- those innocent-looking clear beverages -- and sports drinks hit teeth hardest. Root beer, for some reason, had the mildest effect.

(Can foods harm your enamel? Check out this list of common tooth enemies.)

Surprisingly, it didn't matter if the drinks were diet or loaded with sugar. That's because there are tougher tooth troublemakers in a can of soda: acids. How much and what kinds of acid are in a drink determine how strongly it attacks your choppers -- look for names like phosphoric, citric, malic, and tartaric on labels. They're enamel's worst nightmare.

(Addicted to diet soda? Read up on the pros and cons of sugar-free pop.)

You can minimize some of the damage by sipping a gotta-have-it afternoon Diet Coke through a straw -- if you put the tip of the straw near the back of your mouth to decrease contact time between your teeth and the acids. But be sure to keep it there. Letting the straw sit just past your lips may increase exposure (and damage). Rinsing with water after sipping a soda may help flush out the acids. But simply drinking water instead -- or a cuppa joe if it's caffeine you're after -- is a smarter choice.

(Do electric brushes work better than manual? Check out the debate here.)

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

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