Soft drinks (regular and diet), sports drinks, fruit drinks, and energy drinks have proven to decalcify enamel and are harder on teeth than the orthodontic appliances (braces/aligners) themselves.
Have you ever seen a friend get their braces off only to have what looks like little squares on their front teeth from where their braces used to be? It’s like a train decided to imprint itself on their teeth! Orthodontic treatment is supposed to enhance your already good looks, but I think it’s safe to say this train track would only detract from it!
Acid is the culprit. Soft drinks contain acids, which pulls calcium out of the enamel, making the tooth soft and weak. This “decalcification” can lead to white mottled looking enamel and cavities.
Acid + Sugar = Double Trouble!
Appliances such as braces provide more nooks and crannies that need brushing in order to prevent the build-up of plaque. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film made up of food debris and saliva that isn’t brushed away. This plaque if full of bacteria which uses sugar and starches as food, creating our least favorite byproduct, ACID! Here’s another way of thinking of it—the bacteria in the plaque you are not brushing off is sweating acid all over your teeth. Couple this with the sugary liquids and your poor teeth have no way of combating the acid invasion without your help! Bottom line: Brush, brush, and when in doubt, brush some more.
Contrary to popular belief, aligners are not necessarily a safer option than braces when it comes to decalcification. Sugary liquids seep into aligners when you drink and the liquid is held against your teeth until the aligner is removed. If the liquid contains acid, the prolonged exposure accelerates damage to teeth.
The extensive decay that can take place because of acidic liquids and plaque may require the need for expensive restorations which need to be replaced periodically over time. Unless you enjoy needles and the drill and fill of dental treatment, it’s best to avoid needing this kind of work.
Be smart: Avoid soft drinks, especially during orthodontic treatment and choose water instead. Brush and floss as recommended. Use a fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash because fluoride strengthens teeth. See your general dentist at least every six months for a professional cleaning and check-up (and more often if recommended).
If you still decide to sneak in an occasional soft drink, drink it through a straw. It’s best to have the soft drink during a meal when your salivary glands are most active and thus neutralizing some of the acid. Brush right away after drinking an acidic beverage, or rinse with water. Drink quickly and avoid sipping over a long period of time—each sip renews the acid attack on teeth.
If you should have any questions, discuss them with your orthodontist or orthodontic staff. Professionals are always the best source of information and can give you the most accurate advice regarding your orthodontic treatment.