How many of you will buy a 20 oz. soda from the convenience store and try to make that soda “last” for a long time? I am guilty of this behavior too. And, diet soda is not a safe alternative due to the amount of acid it contains. The problem for our teeth is that it takes our saliva about 20 minutes to wash the sugar and acid away from our teeth. So, if someone has a sip of soda one minute, then waits 10 minutes and has another sip, their teeth will feel like they are constantly sitting in soda.
This “sipping” problem is not limited to adults, nor is it limited to soda. Any liquid that has sugar or acid in it can contribute to decay. One of the toughest things for a dentist to deal with is something called “baby bottle decay” which occurs with very young children, typically ages 1-3. Baby bottle decay is almost always caused when a baby goes to bed with a bottle of milk in the crib. Since the baby has access to the bottle and wakes up several times throughout the night to get a drink of milk, these frequent sugar exposures will cause decay. This is similar in nature to an adult sipping on soda throughout the day.
School aged children are no different. I always caution parents to be mindful of what and HOW their child eats when they get home from school. If your child sips on a flavored drink between getting home from school and suppertime, you need to be aware of the risk of this. Even things like orange juice and apple juice contain sugar and acid. Encourage your child to have these drinks with meals instead of sipping on them in between meals. When having sugary drinks at meal time, it tends to decrease the effects due to increases in salivary flow.
I don’t expect my patients to ONLY drink water, that is unrealistic and who wants to live like that? BUT, you need to be smart with how you have different drinks. A good rule of thumb we stress at MCHD Dentistry is to drink water in between meals, and if you want to have a sugary or acidic drink, try to have those with meals.