How tooth damage occurs
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth using sugar from foods and drinks to produce acids that dissolve and damage the teeth.
Sugar sweetened beverages have high levels of sugar and drinking these can significantly contribute to tooth decay.
Regular and ‘diet' soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, fruit drinks and cordials also have high acid levels that can cause tooth erosion.
Tooth erosion occurs when acid attacks the teeth to dissolve the outer surface of tooth enamel.
Regular loss of enamel can lead to cavities and exposure of the inner layers of the tooth that may become sensitive and painful.
Prevention of enamel loss is very important for the long term health of your teeth.
Each acid attack lasts for around 20 minutes. Every time you take a sip of the drink, the acid damage begins all over again.
How to fight tooth decay and erosion
Drink soft drinks only in moderation, if at all.
Use a straw so your teeth are less exposed to the sugar and acid in the drink.
Take a drink of water, preferably tap water that has been fluoridated, after a sugary or acidic drink to help rinse out your mouth and dilute the sugars.
Protect your teeth by using fluoride toothpaste. Also, after drinking sugary or acidic beverages, don't brush your teeth right away. Wait at least one hour so your teeth can recover and your enamel can reharden before you take the brush to them.
Do not sip a sugary or acidic drink slowly or over a long duration. Doing so exposes your teeth to sugar and acid attacks for longer.
Never drink sugary or acidic drinks before you go to bed – if you do so, the liquid will pool in your mouth, coating your teeth with sugar and acid.
Drink water instead. It has no acid, no sugar – and no kilojoules.
Cancer Council Victoria
ABN 61 426 486 715
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Tips and resources
Key messages & definitions
Sugary drinks tax
Sugary drink guidelines