While fermented drinks can provide hard-to-get nutrients and probiotics, they do have one drawback: They all contain some degree of carbonation, and carbonation can do a number on your teeth.
Does the potential for harm outweigh the benefits of probiotic drinks? Let’s take a look at the issue in greater depth.
Carbonation is what makes fizzy drinks fizz. Carbon dioxide gas is dissolved within the liquid. When the drinks are opened and exposed to air, the gas is free to escape. As it does, it gathers to form the bubbles that so many of us enjoy.
The trouble is, a chemical reaction in your mouth turns the carbon dioxide into carbonic acid, and acid promotes demineralization. It eats away at the enamel that normally protects your teeth, eventually exposing the softer layer of dentin below and leaving your teeth more vulnerable to decay.
Sodas are among the worst culprits. Not only are they heavily carbonated, but they contain additional acids that are added to make them even zingier – phosphoric acid, for instance, or citric acid.
Full sugar sodas are even worse because the bacteria in your mouth feed off that sugar and make even more acid in the process. (This isn’t to recommend “diet” sodas, which are still acidic enough to damage your teeth.)
And the longer you take to sip a soda, the worse its effects become. Each sip exposes your teeth to an acid attack. Nursing a soda for hours will do more damage than drinking it in a few minutes.
Even plain sparkling water can be damaging if you drink enough of it, especially if you sip it constantly throughout the day.
Fermented drinks fall somewhere in between sodas and sparkling water, containing both carbonation and natural acids made during the fermentation process. These acids aren’t quite as strong as those in sodas, but they can still do a fair amount of damage if your teeth are exposed to them too much.
The key phrase there is “too much.” Most people can still get the benefits of fermented drinks while following the precautions that hold for soda, sparkling water, and other fizzy drinks:
Enjoy the drinks as a sometime thing, not something you guzzle throughout the day. Avoid them all together before bed.
When you do drink them, drink fast. Remember: The more your teeth are exposed to acids, the more damage those acids can do.
Use a straw to keep the acids from bathing your teeth.
Rinse your mouth with water afterwards to flush away any remaining acids (and sugars).
Wait at least a half hour before you brush. Allow time for the acids in your mouth to be neutralized. Otherwise, you’re just brushing them into your teeth, which can compound the damage.
But above all, practice moderation. Moderation is the key to getting the most benefits from fermented drinks with the least harm to your teeth.
Image by Steve Beger