soft drinksWhen you begin orthodontic treatment, you will be given special instructions about the types of foods to avoid, particularly if your treatment includes conventional brackets and arch wires.

What about beverages? That is a subject that isn’t covered nearly as often, because beverages don’t come to mind when you think about things that can damage your orthodontic appliances.

You must think about more than harming your appliances during treatment; you have to think about harm to your teeth that can be caused by the types of foods and beverages you eat, too.

Think about it like this: If your front lawn is full of weeds and you hire a professional to landscape your lawn, that landscaper must properly prepare your lawn for the new sod and plants. That means removing weeds and perhaps adding some topsoil.

The orthodontic treatment approach is similar. Before we put brackets and arch wires on your teeth, we must conduct a thorough examination to make sure you don’t have any tooth decay, gum disease or other issues that must be addressed first. Once any of those issues are addressed, then treatment can begin. An orthodontist needs to start with a clean slate.

Let’s say you consume a few soft drinks and sports drinks every day and you develop a cavity while you’re in orthodontic treatment. A trip to your dentist reveals that the cavity is in a spot that can’t be reached until your arch wire and a couple of brackets are removed. That is going to set you back in your treatment.

Based on that, think about how you would answer this question: Are soft drinks bad for my teeth if I have braces? The answer is: They certainly could be.

In my office, my staff and I tell patients to limit their consumption of the following beverages during orthodontic treatment:

  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Energy drinks

Unless you’re choosing the diet variety of these drinks, all of them have high sugar content. And even if you choose the diet variety, those drinks still contain acids that can damage your teeth by weakening the enamel

Many soft drinks contain acidic flavor additives, in addition to 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar, which further increases the risk of developing cavities, according to

The sugar in soft drinks combines with the bacteria in your mouth to produce acid, which attacks your teeth for about 20 minutes after you’ve taken a sip of the beverage. The clock on that acid attack restarts after every sip

Just imagine how long your teeth are under attack if you sip your drink while working at your desk over the course of an hour or two. Not good!

Kids and teens are most susceptible to tooth decay because their tooth enamel is not fully developed, according to the Wisconsin Dental Association

Limiting the amount and frequency of soft drinks, brushing your teeth after meals, flossing twice a day, and maintaining regular dental appointments can help keep your teeth healthy before, during and after orthodontic treatment

When you choose to indulge in a soft drink, sip it through a straw to reduce the amount of the beverage that comes into contact with your teeth. If you can’t brush after consuming the beverage, rinse your mouth with water to help wash away some of the sugar and acid from your teeth.

There also is an aesthetic drawback to consuming soft drinks while you’re in treatment. Dark colored soft drinks can discolor the elastics and rubber ligatures that hold your arch wires in place. Even though these are periodically replaced, you probably don’t want to walk around with stained appliances that detract from your smile.

I hope this answers your questions about soft drink consumption. If you have other questions about the types of foods and beverages you should avoid during treatment, just ask us. We’re glad to help.