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Summer is almost here. As soon as the last school bells ring it’s going to be nonstop soccer practices, summer camps, swim lessons, and trips to the beach. With the Texas heat and extra fun in the sun, it’s more important than ever to think about what we’re drinking and how we can stay hydrated without harming our teeth.
Water is essential for a healthy body. It helps keep your body temperature normal, flushes out waste and toxins, and re-energizes your muscles. Water is also the best choice for healthy teeth. It helps to rinse off the surfaces of the teeth and mouth after eating or drinking, and maintains a neutral pH level.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. The lower the pH level of a food or drink, the more acidic it is. A low pH level aids in acid erosion of the outer layer of your teeth, called the enamel. This acidic environment also encourages cavity-causing bacteria to multiply and flourish. We call these germs sugar bugs! If you consume drinks that are acidic and/or high in sugar you are creating the ideal environment for sugar bugs and tooth decay. The pH level that tooth enamel starts to dissolve is 5.5, so if you’re craving a sweet drink be sure to choose one with a higher pH that doesn’t contain sugar.
The pH levels of common drinks.
It is often thought that daily activity, especially in the summer, requires the use of sports drinks to keep kids’ electrolytes balanced and hydrated. However these contain high levels of sugar, which is a primary factor in tooth decay, and are also very acidic. Recent studies by the Academy of General Dentistry have shown that consuming sports drinks will erode tooth enamel after only five days of consistent use. So save the sports drinks for the serious sweat sessions that last longer than an hour, and choose healthier alternatives for snacks or playtime.
Instead of using sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade to stay hydrated, try adding electrolyte replacement tablets or drops to a bottle of water. You can find many options in your grocery store or online. Some good brands are Ultima Replenisher, NUUN, or LyteShow. These products are sugar-free, non-acidic, and come in fun, kid-friendly flavors.
Stay hydrated with these healthy alternatives.
For the days you do need sports drinks for the extra boost, drink it all at once instead of sipping it throughout the day, and then switch to drinking only water. This will minimize the exposure to your teeth and start to raise the pH of the mouth back to normal levels. Another good alternative is to chew sugar-free gum containing xylitol. This has been proven in clinical studies to help fight enamel erosion and tooth decay.
It’s also important to remember that staying hydrated isn’t only about what you drink, but also what you eat. Fruits and vegetables are packed with water, and your body actually gets 20% of its water from the foods you eat. So load up those pool bags and coolers with lots of water and healthy snacks to keep you and your family hydrated and happy all summer long.