Now that the kids have been back to school for a couple of weeks, it does feel like we are settling back into a routine. Part of that routine may include more running around, shuttling kids to their various activities.

It often means less time to perform some of the most basic, but important functions we may have as parents…such as ensuring our kids are eating healthy snacks and lunches. And never mind just the kids! We may find ourselves too rushed to put together a well balanced meal for ourselves too!

All too often, this can result in us just passing money to our kids to buy a lunch while we do that same at work. So off to the local cafeteria, corner store or fast food restaurant we go. And to go along with that meal, many of us will wind up buying a soft drink!

Many of you might think it is such a minor “sin” that it is hardly worth correcting. The fact is soft drinks are notorious for the negative impact they have on our teeth.

We all know that soft drinks contain huge quantities of sugar… and sugar has long been known to be the enemy of good oral hygiene. Sugar feeds the plaque that builds up on our teeth. The bacteria in the plaque can convert the sugar to acid which can break down the enamel. Thus we have the beginnings of tooth decay.

Many people might think switching to diet soft drinks might solve this problem as they are lower in sugar. However, what they lack in sugar they more than make up for with higher levels of acid. In particular, diet soft drinks tend to have higher levels of citric acid, which is detrimental to tooth enamel.

If you are drinking soft drinks, you should use a straw. This decreases the amount of the soft drink that comes in contact with the teeth, which, of course, is where you find the plaque. That reduces the chance for the bacteria to convert the sugar into enamel-destroying acids.

You should also finish the drink quickly rather than letting it linger. Finishing a drink in 10 minutes usually means the acid build up will continue for 30 minutes. However, if you take 60 minutes to finish your drink, acid will continue to be produced for 90 minutes afterwards!

And of course, you always need to brush. This helps keep the plaque under control as well as reducing the amount of sugar in your mouth. A good electric brush is more effective than a standard brush and we encourage you to consider investing in one.

Finally, regular visits to the dentist are also required to make sure you avoid the build up of plaque. A thorough cleaning at your dentist’s office is essential to offset the negative effects of soft drinks.

Still the best solution is to look for healthier alternatives. Replace the soft drinks with nice, cold, tap water…no sugar and a great source of fluoride! Water is definitely a healthier option…because drinking fewer soft drinks is a healthy habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

Dr. Peter Georgopoulos

Dental Surgeon