A few years ago I visited Paris and discovered, to my surprise, that take-out drinks were not readily available. The French appear to drink coffee seated at a table or the restaurant bar and don’t travel with drinks in hand or in a cup-holder (although Starbucks may initiate change)! If you cannot imagine such inconvenience or if you routinely enjoy portable drinks, read on and see how sipping could affect or damage your teeth.
Any drink (even water) dilutes the mineral-rich saliva that normally moistens your mouth and protects teeth. Dilute saliva has less tooth-healing and tooth-strengthening qualities. In a healthy mouth, undiluted saliva provides minerals that have the potential to reverse the damage that happens during normal eating or drinking. This instant repair process is the mechanism that keeps teeth strong and prevents cavities in a healthy mouth.
Many things we eat and dink (even fruits and vegetables) cause minerals to dissolve from teeth, but fortunately we never get the chance to notice this damage, since saliva provides such a great repair system. Teeth soften in acidity (a process called de-mineralization) but minerals from saliva quickly replace any deficit (a process called re-mineralization). Breakdown and repair are good for teeth because the process allows healthy renewal of enamel. Our skeleton and muscles have a similar process of breakdown and repair to keep our bodies healthy and strong.
Demineralization occurs to some extent whenever we eat or drink. Acids in food or drinks deplete minerals from teeth, and citrus fruits and juices are some of the most damaging. Any sugars, grains, tea-leaves, coffee, carbohydrates, and even vegetables can cause a de-mineralizing effect. This doesn’t mean you should stop eating or drinking, but limit the time that your teeth are exposed to damage and avoid snacking or continuous sipping as much as possible. If you have healthy, alkaline saliva it will wash away acidity and the minerals in saliva can naturally repair damage.
People experience dental problems when they have insufficient saliva or if their saliva is mineral-deficient or acidic. This is because these mouths lack the normal acid-balance and repair mechanism. Acidic saliva can occur because of stress, poor nutrition, hormonal imbalance and with increasing age. Without healthy saliva, the mouth remains acidic and teeth have no way to repair daily damage. Those who believe that teeth can be maintained by diet alone forget this element of the puzzle – how do we help those with acidic saliva? Zellies mints and gum and the Zellies Complete Mouth Care System offer a great solution for such problems and are ideal for someone with a dry or acidic mouth.
If a drink contains sugar, citrus flavors, or acids, sipping it can expose teeth to extended periods of acidity, disabling the natural repair process. The result is weakened enamel, recession, sensitivity, staining, calculus, or cavities. The amount of damage depends on the length of time teeth are exposed to acidity, but the damage can be serious and may occur quickly. If you love acidic drinks (even healthy ones like kombucha or tea!), it’s safest to drink them during a meal, and finish the meal with Zellies mints or gum, to minimize damage.
Studies from the 1940s show it takes at least 30 minutes for saliva to balance mouth acidity after eating and drinking. Anydrop in mouth pH damages teeth and in Europe, graphs of these pH changes are printed on candy wrappers to explain why eating them damages teeth! If you understand the danger of prolonged mouth acidity, you realize why snacking or continuous sipping is a problem. If you snack or sip at short intervals (before saliva has had 30 minutes to balance acidity) your teeth remain in an acidic zone with insufficient time for repair. A simple act of sipping, instead of drinking during a meal, can create weak or thin enamel, sensitivity, cavities and stained enamel.
Remember: xylitol mixed in water will help reduce plaque in your mouth but it will not be as effective for re-mineralizing teeth as Zellies mints or gum eaten directly after snacks, meals and drinks.
We give sippy cups to toddlers; we take water bottles to the gym, school, work, walks – basically everywhere we go. We believing it’s important to keep ourselves hydrated, and I will not debate hydration here. If you want to explore this subject, here are links to thoughts from Dr. Tim Noakes and Dr. J Mercola.
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For more information on oral health and xylitol, please visit all of Dr. Ellie’s web-sites:
Zellies.com – learn more & order your Zellies Xylitol & the Complete Mouth Care System
Dr. Ellie.com – a great resource for learning more about oral health & Dr. Ellie
Dr. E Oral Health Coaching – articles, resources and videos to help you learn more
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My passion is educating people about oral health. For decades I’ve worked with patients of all ages, in different countries, in high and low-risk communities, and from every walk of life. I’ve seen the same results over and over again –people who transformed their oral health – sometimes in days or weeks, even after they had suffered years of pain and frustration. It’s never too late, and my ways will give you the key to a lifetime of improved oral health.
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