JUST ADD WATER
Coffee, tea, or milk? Your choice of drink will impact your general health and your smile. Drink choices seem to increase with each year. Coffee went from regular and decaf to bold, blonde, mocha, espresso, cappuccino, latte, flat white, iced, blended, cold brewed, nitro and more. An average convenient store offers more than 350 drink options from the coolers, taps, and fountains. When we think of healthy drinks, milk gets most of the credit. “Milk. It does a body good” and “milk makes teeth and bones stronger” are phrases that have become ingrained in American culture. With all the choices, the right one is clear – literally and figuratively. You guessed it; the right choice is water.
Water is important to the human body. Each bodily system, organ, and cell needs water. Water delivers essential minerals while removing waste and toxins. Yes, 60% of the human body is made of water, and teeth contain water too. While minerals account for 95% of the contents of teeth, 4% is water (the last 1% is protein). Water is central to good oral health. Water cleans teeth, makes them stronger, keeps saliva plentiful, and is sugar and gluten-free.
Wright. “Is Your Drinking Water Acidic? A Comparison of the Varied pH of Popular Bottled Waters.” The Journal of Dental Hygiene, Vol 89. P 6-12. 2015.
Wash Away Your Troubles
Our taste buds prefer acidic flavors (those with a lower pH), and that means trouble. Apples, oranges, corn, white bread are a few examples of highly acidic foods. From salad dressing to condiments, we douse acid-containing flavors on more neutral foods to make them taste better.
Soda, juice (including wine), sports drinks and energy drinks satisfy our taste buds, but they are acidic and sugary. This combo erodes teeth and causes cavities. The acids cause the minerals to leach from the outer enamel layer. The cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar, producing more acids, which further breaks down your enamel. Sip on these drinks throughout the day, and your teeth will not have a fighting chance.
As we eat acid foods and wash them down with acidic drinks, our enamel weakens. Tap water is neutral rather than acidic, making it the ideal beverage at mealtime. Water will dilute the acids and wash away leftover particles and residues. Plus, fluoride is introduced into the mouth to make teeth stronger.
The act of eating can weaken teeth. The minerals meant to keep teeth strong can be depleted by the food we eat. These minerals need to be replenished or the enamel will continue to weaken. That’s where water, which contains fluoride and other minerals, comes into play. Drinking water completes the cycle by delivering minerals to teeth – making teeth stronger.
Fluoride is central to strong teeth because its bond to teeth is strongest. Getting small amounts of fluoride is simple. Much of the Indiana water from aquifers, rivers and streams contain low levels of fluoride. In fact, 90 of the nearly 400 Indiana public water supplies produce drinking water that is naturally fluoridated at cavity-fighting concentrations. Levels are boosted in the rest of the state’s public water to attain the optimal level of 0.7 mgl/L.
Water with fluoride is “nature’s cavity fighter.” Drink up! Drinking water is one of the easiest and most beneficial things you can do to help prevent cavities.
Every Drop Counts
Dry mouth affects 10 percent of the population and the number increases to 25% once we reach our golden years. Saliva may be best known for starting the digestive breakdown of food and making swallowing food easy. Saliva also gets credit for keeping tissues moist, cleaning the oral cavity, neutralizing acids, and aiding in speech. Without adequate salivary flow, tooth decay, various oral infections, and problems with eating, digestion and speech occur.
Saliva is 99% water, contains minerals to keep teeth strong, and helps to maintain a neutral pH. Water is essential to maintain normal saliva production and to aid those with dry mouth symptoms. How much water should you drink? Studies say you need 3.7 quarts of water a day. This means you need to drink 2 quarts of water and the rest will come from the food you eat. An easy way to remember is to drink “eight 8 oz glasses.”
Consider Your Source
The trouble with commercially bottled water is that they are not all the same. Some bottled water can harm your teeth. Water bottling plants often lower the pH to please your taste buds; that, incidentally, sells more of their water. The fluoride content is usually lower in bottled water. This makes good old tap water your best source, which has a neutral pH and optimal fluoride level.
When you need to reach for bottled water, keep this chart in mind. Water with pH of 7 or higher will be leave you smiling better.
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