Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Tooth Decay

by Emily Richardson

Many of us are aware that regular brushing and flossing is important, but it is also imperative to consider what you are consuming throughout the day that could affect your dental health. As college students with busy schedules, it can be difficult to make healthy choices, but it is important to not overlook your diet as nutrition plays a critical role in oral health.

It is not uncommon to see college students consuming an unhealthy amount of caffeinated beverages, especially with finals approaching. A recent study on a sample of college students revealed that on average, young adults consume approximately two cups of sugar-sweetened beverages per day (1). These sugary drinks that many of us consume on a daily basis including soda, energy drinks, and coffee not only contain little to no nutrients, but are also harmful to our teeth.

The bacteria found in our mouth thrive on the sugar that we consume producing acid that dissolve minerals inside the tooth enamel in a process called demineralization. The longer the bacteria sits on a person’s teeth, the more acids will be produced (2). Sipping on sweetened coffee all day during finals may be what gets many of us through the stressful week, but this allows the bacteria to produce acid continuously, ultimately causing tooth decay.

Suggestions to consider! (3)

  • Drink, don’t sip: Sipping gives the bacteria more time to eat the sugar and to create cavities. Drink quickly to give your body time to wash away the bad stuff. Try to drink sweetened coffees, teas or sodas in one sitting instead of sipping on them over a longer amount of time.
  • Choose alternatives: Reduce the number of sugary beverages you consume and substitute healthier options. Better choices include water, unsweetened tea, milk, and plain sparkling water.


  1. Laska M, et al. How We Eat What We Eat: Identifying Meal Routines and Practices Most Strongly Associated with Healthy and Unhealthy Dietary Factors Among Young Adults. Public Health Nutrition. 2015; 12: 2135-2145.
  2. Mouth-Healthy Eating. Accessed November 20, 2017.
  3. Gorshteyn, I. The Truth About Sugary Drinks and Your Smile. Mouth Healthy: American Dental Association. Accessed November 20, 2017.
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