The sugary drinks curse

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The Pakistani population, the youth specifically, shows an alarmingly high inclination towards increased consumption of sugary beverages daily which are very damaging to general and well as oral health. Our mouth colonizes harmful bacteria that feed on the sugar we consume to produce acid which in turn can result in irreversible damage in the form of cavities or erosion.

The majority of our population is unaware of the harsh truth behind most popular beverages that are often marketed “100% natural” or “healthy”. These beverages are packed with sugar so there is nothing healthy in there for you. A glass of apple juice is said to contain the same amount of sugar as a glass of soda. According to the recommendation set by the USDA, the daily sugar intake should not exceed more than 10% of one’s daily calorie intake. For men, that approximates to 12.5-18.75 teaspoons and for women, approximately 10-15 teaspoons daily. This means that just one glass of apple juice alone compensates for the daily sugar intake limit for many people.

The ideal solution is to completely eliminate sweetened beverages from our diets however, that is way too challenging and unrealistic. Gradually reducing the sugary beverage intake number and substituting that with healthier alternatives is a more attainable goal. Following are some popular unhealthy beverages and their healthier alternatives:

High Sugar Content:                                                                                                                    Healthy Alternative:
Soda                                                                                                                                                                        Water
Energy Drinks                                                                                                                                   Unsweetened Tea
Chocolate Milk                                                                                                                                                         Milk
Smoothies                                                                                                                                            Sparkling Water
Juice or Fruit Punch                                                                                                                                Diluted Juice


These healthy alternatives constitute of little or no sugar which means that there is a greatly reduced chance of acid production and hence tooth damage. Milk contains calcium that is responsible for keeping teeth strong. Water often contains fluoride which is great for tooth protection against cavities. Many children suffer from lactose intolerance or are allergic to cow’s milk. Calcium supplements and unsweetened plant-based milk substitutes such as soy milk and almond milk are tried and tested alternatives.

While it may be easy to say that quitting is the best way to go, for some, it is very difficult to kick the habit to the curb. If you are unable to put cravings to rest such as a cup of sweetened morning coffee, juice, or tea, here are some measures you can take to protect your teeth.

  • Brush and Clean between Your Teeth Religiously: It is crucial to brush your teeth twice and floss once daily. Consult your dentist to find the best method suitable for you. For children ages 8 and younger, be sure to help them clean their teeth effectively and regularly arrange follow-up appointments with the dentist.
  • Maintain Adequate Fluoride Intake: Fluoridated water is particularly effective against cavity formation and overall dental health maintenance.
  • Drink, Do Not Sip: Sipping your drink over an extended period allows the bacteria in your mouth to react with consumed sugars to create acid and thus facilitate caries formation. It is much better to drink your beverage in one sitting. If you wish to give your child juice, for example, try to give it to them during meal times only.

The first step towards change is awareness. Now that you are aware of the damaging effects of sugary beverages on your dental health, it is time to incorporate some altering lifestyle changes. Set positive goals and work towards a healthier and brighter smile in the future. For the upcoming month of Ramadan, keep these facts in mind as you make healthier drinking choices to get you through the scorching hot summer days.

May 4, 2017

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Dental is part of the Medical News Group of publications which in 1968 became the pioneer of medical journalism in Pakistan. Medical News is the only periodical in Pakistan which has 3 simultaneous editions from Karachi, Islamabad and online.

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