The message that soda is bad for your teeth and your overall health is hard to avoid these days. Most of us already know that sugary soda pop should be treated as a special treat, not an everyday beverage for quenching your thirst. What may surprise you is how many supposedly healthy drinks have a lot of sugar in them.
First, a reminder why sugar is bad for your teeth in the first place. Sugar causes tooth decay because bacteria (many of which naturally occur in your mouth) consume the sugar, digest it, and release it as acid. This acid erodes your tooth enamel and causes cavities. It’s not the sugar itself that’s dangerous, it’s the acid it creates!
So you have something to compare to, here’s the sugar content of popular sodas:
- Coca Cola has 64g of sugar per serving
- Sprite has 61g of sugar per serving
The nutrition labels on beverages can sometimes be hard to understand for Americans who aren’t used to the metric system of measurement. For your reference, one teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams. So 64g of sugar is equivalent to 16 tablespoons of sugar (in other words, a third of a cup!).
Orange Juice – 24g (6 teaspoons) of sugar per 8 oz. serving
Oranges are known for being a great source of Vitamin C, which can help keep your immune system strong. And while this is true of the fruit itself, the juice is less honorable. An orange only contains about 2 oz. of juice, meaning a small 8 oz. glass of orange juice has the equivalent of 4 oranges. So eating an orange with your breakfast makes sense but downing a glass of orange juice is actually 4 times the sugar. Plus, like all citrus juices, orange juice is acidic. That means there are actually two substances in orange juice that could potentially harm your teeth.
Sports Drinks – 14g (3.5 teaspoons) of sugar per 8 oz. serving
Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are touted as being a healthy option for anyone who engages in strenuous exercise, and their ads are full of professional athletes reaching for a brightly covered beverage to replenish their bodies. And while 14g of sugar per 8 0z. serving may not seem like a lot compared with soda pop’s 64g, ask yourself, when was the last time you only had only a quarter of a bottle of Gatorade? A regular bottle is 32 oz., meaning if you finish the bottle you’re actually consuming 56g of sugar!
Iced Tea – 24g (6 teaspoons) of sugar per 8 oz. serving
Obviously, on its own, tea doesn’t contain any sugar, but over the centuries humans have figured out that adding sweeteners to tea can be pretty tasty, and iced tea is no exception. The trouble is that iced teas are marketed these days as natural and healthy, and you can easily overlook how much sugar they contain. For example, Arizona Iced Tea contains 24g of sugar per serving and Snapple Lemon Iced Tea contains 23g. The good news is there are unsweetened varieties of iced tea available for purchase, and you can always make your own so you can control the amount of sugar yourself.
In a dentist’s fantasy world, all our patients would avoid sugary drinks completely, but we know that’s not realistic. All we ask is for our patients to have some awareness of what they’re subjecting their teeth and bodies to. After all, our ultimate job is protecting your smile! Remember, just because something has a reputation of being healthy and natural, and advertising that says so, doesn’t mean it can’t do harm.