In this guest blog, James Goolnik explains how we can enjoy alcohol-free drinks and maintain healthy teeth. James is on a mission to help the world to Kick Sugar. He was previously President of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is a judge for both the Dental Industry Awards and the Private Dentistry Awards. James has also been voted the most influential person in dentistry in the UK twice in a row. His first book ‘Brush’ is a number one best seller on Amazon and all the profits are channelled to the charity, Dentaid. He founded Bow Lane Dental Group in London in 2001 and helps repair the damage sugar does on a daily basis. His second book ‘KickSugar’ a charity cookbook reveals how to Kick Your Sugar Habit in just 14 Days. He is founder of the non-profit The Rewards Project, a charity dedicated to helping schools and nurseries go sugar-free.
Maintaining healthy teeth and enjoying alcohol-free drinks
When it comes to alternative drinks to alcohol, if you are concerned about maintaining healthy teeth and most, options used to be somewhat limited. More recently there has been an interest in lighter, healthier drinks meaning there’s no shortage of options when it comes to high quality, lower strength wine and beer that has a low-ABV (alcohol by volume). For this article, we will contrate on those that are 0.5% ABV so classified as alcohol-free. You still need to be careful as many alcohol-free drinks can be packed full of sugar.
One of the world’s oldest non-alcoholic drinks, if not the oldest, is tea. After water, tea is the most popular drink in the world today. There are so many delicious herbal teas that you can try. Depending on the acidity of herbal tea type, how strong you like your tea and the tannins present some of them will stain your teeth but nothing a session with your dental hygienist cannot remove. The worst offenders are green, black and white tea. You can reduce the staining by having weaker tea and brushing after your cuppa. Also, worth noting is tea plants readily absorb fluoride from soil. As a result, tea drinks often contain fluoride, which in low doses can help protect your teeth from decay. Saying this try and limit to no more than three mugs a day and higher quality teas also contain antioxidants.
The impact of acid on healthy teeth
In my previous blog I talked about how acid affects your mouth and how to limit its affect. I want you to have an easy way to spot the acid in the drinks.
First of all is it carbonated? Anything fizzy is going to be acidic, even fizzy water. On top of the natural acidity of sparkling water, citrus-flavoured versions contain citric acid, which lowers their pH and increases their potential to affect your teeth. So ideally steer clear of these ones. The pH of your mouth is usually around 7 (neutral) and the enamel of your teeth will start to dissolve anything lower than 5.5, with the root surface (dentine) being softer gets damaged below just 6.5. All fruit drinks are acidic, lemon and limes being the worse for your teeth. The recent fad in having hot water with lemon when you wake up to help your digestion has led to an increase in sales of sensitive toothpaste to combat the damage this does.
How about sports or energy drinks? They are packed full of both sugar and acid so can be very harmful on your teeth. It varies among manufactures, so read the labels. In addition, the hyperactive energy from the sugar/ caffeine content can trigger teeth-grinding, leading to tooth breakage and loss. Coconut water can be better alternative if you are looking for ways to refuel without all the added sugar and acid.
Are kombucha or drinks with apple cider vinegar ok? These drinks are gaining popularity due to their potential health benefits for your gut. They are again highly acidic, which when consumed in large quantities can lead to enamel erosion and loss of minerals. They do have added sugar but this varies amongst the manufacturers so read the label and ideally drink in one sitting. For most people having occasional acidic drinks is not a problem you just need to limit the time they are in your mouth and think about neutralising the acid after you drink them. If you combine them with food the acids will have no effect on your teeth. If you are just drinking, think about using a straw or a quick swill with water every twenty minutes to neutralise the acid. Also, wait for thirty minutes before brushing your teeth to reduce any further acid damage.
What about sugar?
Our last blog talked about sugar and carbohydrates leading to dental cavities. Let’s talk about reading the labels.
When you mix cocktails at home you have complete control over your ingredients and whether you have added any sugar. The trouble is, when drinking out, you have no idea whether sugar has been included unless you learn to scan the nutrition labels. The nutrition information on most drinks is voluntary in the United Kingdom but more companies are adding more than the energy value alone. If the drink has two or more ingredients (including any additives), then they are all listed. Ingredients are listed in order of weight, with the main ingredient first. If you see sugar as first on the list, steer clear! Most people do not take the time to read the labels and compare drinks. We are believers in the traffic light system that is on some drinks.
The ingredients in a well know cola drink: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Colour (Caramel E150d), Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavourings Including Caffeine. Firstly, look at the total sugars per 100ml.
- A low-sugar drink contains less than 2.5g of sugar per 100ml
- A medium-sugar drink contains 2.5g to 11.25g of sugar per 100ml
- A high-sugar drink contains more than 11.25g of sugar per 100ml
Take the 14 day challenge!
Are you looking to lower your sugar intake? Why not try some of the delicious recipes in James Goolnik’s charity cookbook Kick Sugar. His book written in collaboration with other healthcare specialists will also help you reduce your alcohol consumption at the same time. If you are interested in boosting your health, your immune system and your mental health check it out on Amazon. All the proceeds go to the charity Rewards Project aiming to make schools and nurseries sugar free.