There’s a little number that matters more than calories!
Article Courtesy of | JoAn Majors / MajorSmiles.com
When we ask this question, “What’s your drink of choice?” in our practice most people think we are asking about a cocktail but it’s quite the contrary. Often today people have more concerns about the number of calories in a drink than the little number that creates havoc on oral health not to mention the far-reaching effects of the sugar itself. It’s the acidity or PH and sugar in a drink that matter most when it comes to rampant tooth decay. Over the last several years we have seen flavored waters and coffee become more popular as a drink than ever. Oddly enough most people never think anything of the lingering effects of sipping on a drink for hours in a day.
The many medications today that cause someone to have dry mouth is increasing daily. Medications to treat high blood pressure, urinary continence, antidiarrheal, muscle relaxers (the list is long) and other common issues cause dry mouth which lowers the buffering capacity of saliva. If someone with a dry mouth decides it’s easy to sip on a carbonated drink or coffee throughout the day it can cause extreme damage to teeth. This is just one discovery question we ask in our practice which provides comprehensive care for adults. When the doctor or hygienist notices a big change from one visit to the next, it’s often due to a change in diet (drinks/starlight mints/cough drops etc) which in turn changes the biofilm in the mouth.
We recently had an adult patient who shared she wasn’t getting much sleep with a child up at night. She sipped on coffee throughout her workday. Nothing else had changed so when asked the question about her drink of choice, it became evident this was the culprit. She used real sugar in her coffee, 2 teaspoons. Any drink with sugar creates an acid exposure for up to 30 minutes. The bacteria (plaque) in our mouth convert sugar into acid that breaks the teeth down. Consider drinking the cup of coffee completely, then just rinsing the mouth with water (not Listerine® – it’ another story). If one has over 3 exposures a day it’s proven you will have higher incidents of decay.
If you think of water with no sugar having a pH level (Neutral) of 7.1 compared to battery acid (not a drink) having a pH of 1 you can begin to understand. A daily, Coca-Cola Classic®, pH of 2.4 and 10 tsp of sugar might not be worth it when sipping it away during an afternoon of bridge. Secondly, the OJ, thought to be healthy can create trouble as well. One glass of Minute Maid® Orange Juice has a pH of 3.8 with 9 tsp of sugar. It’s easy to see where the confusion comes from when we ask a simple question about someone’s drink of choice.
Many of our patients have never been asked this question. They chalk the rampant tooth decay or sudden change in oral health up to age, genetics or a recent health condition. We often hear…I never had problems until after my heart attack, stoke etc. Many conditions with medication that causes sever dry mouth (xerostomia) without regular visits to a dentist go unnoticed or undisclosed. These are reasons to see your dentist (the oral physician) trained to watch for changes in the oral cavity that are far reaching when it comes to senior health issues. Besides an oral, head and neck exam and oral cancer screening the visit to a well-trained comprehensive dentist is more important than ever for today’s senior.
An example of drinks and their pH levels can be found at: http://drinksdestroyteeth.org/the-unsweetened-truth/
JoAn Majors is a professional speaker, published author and registered dental assistant. She has been published in over 25 magazines and authored 3 books. JoAn’s favorite “work” place is in front of the room inspiring dental team members to greatness second only to being chairside (as the comprehensive care coordinator) in her husband’s practice, MajorSmiles.com inspiring patients with hope! She is a member of the National Speakers Association, Global Speakers Federation and multiple dental organizations. To learn more or see JoAn in action visit: www.joanmajors.com.