Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sugar Free Drinks - How Not To Melt Your Teeth While You Melt The Pounds!!

Hey y'all!! I just got done reading Lap Band Gal's post about her recent dental appointment.  I urge you to go read the post if you haven't already but here is the Cliffs Notes version.  
Lap Band Gal has acid erosion on her teeth!!   And it might be related to some of her healthy habits!!! Come to think of it-- acid erosion is something all of us WLSers could be at risk for as a result of our newer healthier choices.   Since I AM a dental hygienist (aka real life tooth fairy) -- I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about acid erosion and how it can be managed and prevented.  

What is Acid Erosion??  

It is the irreversible loss of tooth structure due to chemical destruction by acids not of bacterial origin.  As opposed to cavities, or caries, which is the destruction of the tooth by bacterial acids/ by-products. (But that's a whole 'nother post!)   Here are some examples of acid erosion (these are pretty advanced cases and in no way suggestive of the lovely Lap Band Gal) :

This type erosion on the back side of the teeth
 is common in bulimics
and those with chronic, severe acid reflux.  
In other words, acid erosion is caused by acidic things that come into direct contact with your teeth i.e. acidic foods, acidic drinks, stomach acids due to excessive vomiting or reflux. 

What, specifically, causes acid erosion??? 

Well, acid, of course, DUH!!!  Just kiddin'!  When it comes to acid erosion, there are couple of primary causes.  

  • Acidic foods -  Citrus fruits - lemons, limes, oranges, pineapples, etc.  
  • Acidic drinks - Fruit juices, Regular & Diet Sodas, Sugar Free Drink Mixes (i.e. Crystal Light),  Regular & Diet Sports Drinks (i.e Powerade Zero / G2) 
  • Stomach Acid Exposure - due to chronic vomiting or acid reflux 
Although many of us WLSers do deal with acid reflux from time to time, acid reflux isn't likely to be our biggest issue when it comes to acid erosion.  Our biggest concerns are these guys: 

What is one of the biggest bandster rules??  DON'T DRINK YOUR CALORIES!!     

In an effort to "follow the rules" many of us totally rely on these calorie free drinks to help get/stay hydrated.  Unfortunately, our reliance on these types of drinks is putting us at serious risk for acid erosion or damage to our tooth enamel.  

There are two main ingredients found in these low calorie drinks that are guilty of causing all the trouble and those are:  Citric Acid and/or Phosphoric Acid.  

Citric Acid and Phosphoric Acid are where these drinks get most of their flavor.  If you are wondering if your drink of choice contains either of these ingredients, just check out the label, they probably do.  I took these from my pantry. 

Coke Zero

Crystal Light
Powerade Zero

How Do I Prevent Acid Erosion?  

I know you guys are thinkin',  "Great, so I am laying off the sugary drinks so I can control my weight loss, and now you are tellin' the zero calorie drinks are no good either???" 

While I am sure we can all agree that we would all be a lot better off if water were the only liquid we consumed.  I am realistic enough to know that sometimes the ol' H2O just isn't all that appetizing.  So whattaya do??  Here are some DO's & DON'Ts to combat acid erosion:


  • Immediately swish your mouth out with plain water after drinking acidic drinks.  
  • Or pop a piece of Sugarless Gum to stimulate saliva production which will help neutralize the acidic environment. 
  • Dilute your drink mixes as much as you can possibly tolerate. Example: If your drink would normally be mixed with 16oz of water, try mixing it with 24oz of water instead.  You still get the flavor but the acid is just a little less concentrated.  
  • Use an enamel strengthening toothpaste, I recommend either Sensodyne Pronamel or Colgate EnamelProtect.
  • Only use a Soft or Extra Soft bristle toothbrush. 
  • Add a Fluoride Mouth Rinse to your oral care routine -such as:  ACT Restoring Mouthwash, Listerine Fluoride Defense, or Listerine Total Care Zero (if you can't handle the burn). 
  • Use a straw if you can -- it helps limit the contact between your teeth and the acidic drinks. ( I know there is a lot of debate about whether or not straws are okay with LapBand so I suggest this only if you can tolerate it and if your surgeon has given you the okay to drink from a straw.    My surgeon is cool with it and I actually prefer drinking from straws.) 


  • Brush your teeth immediately after consuming acidic food or drink. Wait at least 30 mins before brushing to allow your mouth to "balance" the acidity.  Brushing too soon can brush away the tooth structure.  
  • Nurse your beverage all day long.  Try to set a time limit to consume acidic drinks.  For example, give yourself 1 hour to drink your Crystal Light, Powerade, etc.  If you still need something to drink -  switch to plain water for an hour. It takes the mouth 20 mins to balance it's pH after exposure to acid-- if you are sipping all day long your mouth is never getting a chance to balance its pH therefore your enamel isn't getting to re-harden itself.  
  • Swish your drink around in your mouth like mouthwash. I know this may sound odd but you would be surprised how many people do this without even thinking about it.  Don't let the acidic drinks linger in your mouth any longer than necessary. 

So there you go.  My thoughts on acid erosion.  I wanted to be thorough without writing you a dental textbook so if you have any questions or something isn't quite clear just leave it the comments.  

Hope this helps!!!   


  1. Thank you so much for this post :)

    Those pics of eroded teeth make me want to go into the ladies room with my mirror/compact and see if the back sides of my teeth look like that! yikes! Every time that I am jonesing for a powerade zero I will think of those pics. LOL

  2. Yikes! I already dilute my crystal's SOOO strong! I'm trying to really just drink as much good ole h2o as I can! Thanks for the post!

    P.S. I'm a new follower thanks to LBG

    1. H2O is the way to go!!! But diluting is good too. I am like you I can't handle the intensity of the flavor at normal strength.

  3. This was very informative, thanks for sharing. I kicked the habit of flavored drinks two years ago, I'm glad I did!

  4. OMG!!!!!! my pearly whites are one of my few prized posessions....I am TOTALLY freaked out right now! I am never touching my Mio again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. This is so interesting... I use a bottle sized serving of CL in a 1/2 gallon pitcher, but I drink a whole pitcher each day. I wonder what my teeth look like. Eek!

  6. That is wonderful information, thank you!

  7. gahh those pictures, I would be devastated if that happened to my teeth! Thanks for all the great info defiantly taking all of that into account.

  8. Great post, thanks for the information! This makes me even more glad that I decided to just stick to water. Hope you're doing good!

  9. bummer!! going to have to check out my Mio bottle. Is my new addiction... hope it isn't too acidic.

  10. Great info thanks for posting!