The pros and cons of diet drinks

The pros and cons of diet drinks

Diet drinks and dental health, do they go together? The short answer is no.

The long answer is also no.

The low-calorie alternatives to iconic fizzy, sugar-laden drinks were created for those struggling to lose weight – but who do not want to give up their favourite fizz.

According to Northern Trails, Dental Care calorie-obsessed dieters are misinformed and misled by the health benefits of products such as sugar alternatives, diet fizzy drinks that are sugar-free, have low calories and zero nutritional value. 

Although diet drinks don’t contain the 45g of sugar – about 11 teaspoons – that the regular drinks have per can, it is still bad for your teeth. 

Sugar-free may reduce the risk of tooth decay by a slight margin, but it does not reduce the risk entirely because of the other ingredients in the drink. 

Sugar which feeds bad oral bacteria in the mouth that, in turn, creates an acidic environment that leads to tooth decay and gum disease, is not the only problem. 

The ingredients of diet drinks

While sugar substitutes like xylitol found in chewing gum, mints and toothpaste have benefits such as preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth and helping in the production of saliva that neutralises acids, there are a host of other ingredients in sugar-free foods that damage teeth.

Diet drinks with increased acidic properties and low pH levels – as low as 2 or 3 sometimes – have the capacity to soften and erode enamel up to 50 percent. While chemicals called chelators bind other chemicals to calcium, thereby causing further erosion. 

The ingredients found in diet drinks are: 

  • Phosphoric, citric, and tartaric acid are present in most diet drinks that eat away at your teeth enamel, especially if you sip on your 1.5-litre diet drink throughout the day. This means your teeth are under relentless acid attack for up to 8 hours a day. Of these three acids, citric acid, is the most erosive. Fruit juices and sports drinks contain it too. 
  • Carbonated cola drinks are implicated in bone loss. Calcium and basic minerals of pH seven or higher are leached from the bloodstream to neutralise the disruption of pH levels in the stomach.
  • Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose found in some diet drinks could help prevent tooth decay. However, aspartame is toxic in brain cells and causes headaches. These sweeteners have been linked to weight gain, as well.
  • Caffeine has both diuretic and laxative properties. These could lead to chronic dehydration if you are drinking that 1.5 litres of diet drink every day and drinking less water as a result. Dehydration leads to dry mouth, and with that comes bad breath, thereby increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.  

Prolonged drinking of diet and other soft drinks leads to significant enamel loss. A 2006 study found that orange juice and sports drink impact surface hardness of tooth enamel. 

However, diet and non-diet cola drinks destroy dentin inside the tooth, surface enamel and two other dental layers. The study pointed out that dental erosion affected the entire tooth surface while cavities and tooth decay showed in specific areas such as pits, grooves and spots where neighbouring teeth touch. 

Hydrate with teeth-friendly drinks

According to the American Dental Association, the first step would be to remove diet and non-diet fizzy drinks or any other food or drinks that have acids listed as ingredients from your diet.

Water, unsweetened tea, milk, coffee, plain sparkling water, diluted juice with little or no sugar, herbal teas and unsweetened plant milks such as soy or almond milk are excellent choices. 

Water, herbal teas and plant milks are the best because of low acidic levels. This limits the enamel erosion risk of teeth sensitivity. 

And if you do need to drink a diet fizzy drink, then do so with a meal and ensure that you use a straw that will limit the acids touching the surface of your teeth. However, you should avoid drinking diet drinks or any other fizzy drink in the morning because your salivary calcium is lower, thereby leaving your teeth entirely vulnerable to acid attacks. 

Protecting your teeth

Besides flossing and brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, you should: 

  • Always try to cut down on acid-feeding sugar. Eat a fruit, instead of dessert. 
  • Wait an hour after consuming an acidic snack or drink before brushing your teeth. Acid foods, including oranges and lemons, soften tooth enamel, so if you brush too soon after consuming them, you will cause further damage to your teeth by spreading the acids. It also takes about 30 to 60 minutes for saliva to regain a neutral pH.
  • Drink water or milk or eat calcium-rich foods after acidic meals or beverages help neutralise acids. 

You may want to consider trying a natural remedy such as oil-pulling with coconut or olive for further protection oil. Swishing with oil for up to 20 minutes draws plaque build-up from your teeth.  

Dental Cover for Emergencies

Accidents happen. A chipped tooth from a bad fall or even the need for an emergency procedure like a root canal surgery can put an unexpected financial strain on you. 

Affinity Dental is one of the best dental insurance providers in the country. It offers customers three different cover options tailored to match consumers’ unique needs and budgets. 

There are three tiers to choose from. Check out the official Affinity Dental website for more information.



If you would like to leave a comment