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If your parents ever told you to put the can of soda back in the fridge and drink a glass of water instead, they were just thinking of your best interests.

Soda tends to contain a lot of sugar with no significant nutritional benefit, according to 2017 research, and drinking too much is often linked to obesity.

Your parents might also have been thinking about your teeth. That’s because soda contains a lot of stuff that can do some serious damage to your teeth.

An occasional soda might not be a big deal, especially if you follow it up with some water to rinse your mouth. But if you drink a lot of pop, your teeth may pay the price.

Your teeth are vulnerable to sugars in all the foods and beverages that you consume. When you drink soda, the sugar liquid bathes your teeth.

Even after you swallow a mouthful of soda, the sugary residue remains behind on (and in between) your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth sense the bounty of sugar and begin feeding on it.

They do this by producing acids that basically attack your teeth.

Over time, these acids can wear away at the enamel on your teeth. The enamel is the hard outer covering of a tooth.

This erosion can make the enamel thinner and more vulnerable. Weaker enamel can lead to more cavities, according to a 2015 study. It can even expose part of the dentin, the sensitive middle layer of the tooth that covers the pulp at the center.

Plus, you have to watch out for sweeteners in your soda that might not be listed specifically as “sugar” on the ingredients label. They can still do damage to your teeth.

The possibilities include:

  • high fructose corn syrup
  • molasses
  • dextrin
  • honey
  • malt syrup
  • evaporated cane juice

You may be thinking that switching from regular soda to diet soda might harm your teeth less.

Giving up — or at least cutting back on — high calorie, sugary sodas is definitely a good idea for your overall health and your teeth. Opting for drinks that are sugar-free or lower in sugar can help reduce your risk of developing tooth decay.

However, switching to diet soda is not a magic solution. As it turns out, diet soda is highly acidic.

The list of ingredients is likely to include phosphoric acid, citric acid, or tartaric acid. The carbonation in these drinks raises the acid levels, and your teeth are the target.

As the American Dental Association (ADA) warns, acid can wear away at the enamel on your teeth and eventually lead to cavities.

Want to know how to lower your chances of developing tooth decay from drinking soda? Consider these strategies:

Decrease the amount of soda you drink

The less your teeth are bathed in soda, the less they’ll be exposed to the sugar and acid that lead to tooth decay. So, if you drink soda every day, it may be time to swap out that sweet pop for water as much as you can.

You can opt for tap water, but many people prefer flavored water. Just read the labels carefully to make sure you’re getting sugar-free flavored water, so you don’t accidentally replace one sugary drink with another.

Brush and floss regularly

One of the best ways that you can ward off tooth decay and dental cavities is by diligently brushing your teeth twice a day.

The ADA recommends twice-daily brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.

And yes, you need to floss every day to sweep away debris that’s caught in those narrow spaces between your teeth.

Rinse your mouth with water after drinking pop

It’s OK if you sometimes answer the call of the ice-cold fizzy soda. But when you finish enjoying your pop, it’s a good idea to rinse your mouth out with water.

This will wash away some of that sugar and acid before it can start eating away at your tooth enamel.

Even better, brush your teeth if you can!

See a dentist routinely

A dentist can inspect your teeth for signs of damage to the enamel, find cavities, and fill them if you have any.

You’ll often hear a recommendation to get twice-yearly checkups, but the ADA suggests that your dental visits should be tailored to your own specific oral health history and status, taking into account factors like higher risk for the gum infection periodontitis.

Get fluoride treatments

The 2015 study mentioned earlier examined enamel in mice and found that some animals with weaker or thinner enamel were more likely to develop dental cavities.

The researchers concluded that people who seem to have thinner tooth enamel might benefit from more frequent applications of highly concentrated fluoride by a dental professional.

Your dentist might encourage you to come in for a professional fluoride treatment on a regular basis.

Get sealants on your teeth

According to the ADA, a dental sealant is a thin coating that attaches to the surface of your back teeth and can help keep cavities from forming.

The same 2015 animal study that suggested regular fluoride treatments for people who are more vulnerable to cavities also recommended dental sealants on teeth, especially on the molars.

Molars have lots of nooks and crannies where sugar and bacteria can hide.

If you’re a soda fan, you may wonder if using a straw can help protect your teeth.

Drinking soda through a straw can help prevent stains on your teeth. This is because the straw may decrease the contact between your teeth and the pop.

That’s good for your front teeth from a cavity perspective, too — less sugary liquid bathing your front teeth means less potential harm to them.

However, it depends on how you drink with the straw. Using a straw might protect your front teeth from soda’s sugars, but it doesn’t necessarily protect your back teeth.

If you drink from a straw and hold or swish the soda around in the back of your mouth, the sugar and acids can still hurt your back teeth. The ADA says it’s better for your teeth to just sip and swallow, whether you’re using a straw or not.

Pop may taste delicious but ultimately, it can be harmful to your teeth, even if you choose diet soda.

It can lead to erosion of your enamel as well as to cavities.

If you still want to enjoy the occasional soda, consider embracing a few strategies to reduce the potential harm it can cause in your mouth.