Don’t Let Hot Weather Drinks Dry You Out!

Posted on May 29, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Summer is right around the corner! The coming months are typically those that move us to outdoor activities for “fun in the sun!”

Before you stock a cooler to tote along meant to quench your thirst, consider it’s contents — for your smile! While the intention with these drinks is to re-hydrate, many of these beverages can actually dry you out, including the oral tissues.

Let me explain the hazards behind having a dry mouth. First, think about how your mouth feels when you first wake up. Because the mouth is dry upon awakening, it causes a sticky buildup. This occurs when saliva flow is at minimum levels during sleep.

Without sufficient saliva flow, bacteria in the mouth are not being cleansed efficiently. Their accumulation leads to a sticky film that forms over teeth and gums. When we wake up, this is why our breath is less-than-fresh.

This film of bacteria is known as plaque. Bacteria are tiny organisms that eat, reproduce, and create waste. When the film they form becomes acidic, it can lead to the demineralization of teeth – a fancy term for cavities. Bacteria capable of eating into tooth enamel should be taken seriously!

Obviously, the goal is to keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum not only for fresh breath, but to avoid cavities and periodontal (gum) disease. When oral bacteria becomes too much for healthy gums tissues to handle, they become inflamed.

This inflammation destroys gum tissues, which become feeding and breeding grounds for oral bacteria. Once inflamed to a certain extent, the gums (the foundation of healthy teeth and the bones that support them) are destroyed.

As oral bacteria amass further, diseased gum tissues will release their firm grip around teeth, allowing these potent bacteria to attack structures below the gum line. They can also enter the bloodstream.

Research has shown that the oral bacteria of gum disease can create inflammatory triggers in the body. This inflammation has been linked to a number of serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke.

The goal is to keep oral bacteria levels manageable. This is why it’s so important to brush thoroughly twice daily, floss each day, and to keep the mouth moist. Through these simple steps, you greatly reduce your risk for cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and the penetration of oral bacteria into the bloodstream.

Saliva is your body’s natural oral cleanser. However, a number of things can deplete the amount of moisture in the mouth. Summer beverages tend to fool people since it is assumed that something cold and wet replenishes moisture. Beware the following:

• Colas – A cooler full of colas may seem like a good way to cool down, but most of these beverages pack a double whammy. The majority of colas are caffeinated AND contain sugar. Even those that are “sugar-free” and/or caffeine-free are bad for you. Why? Colas are highly acidic. This acid mixes with digestive acids that flow into the mouth each time you eat or drink. Sugar ramps up the acid content even more. When you combine a drink that has caffeine and sugar with these acids, you create a challenging ordeal for teeth and gums.
As if all that weren’t bad enough, think of the nature of how we drink colas. Most of us sip these drinks over a period of time. So, with each sip, oral acids are flowing into the mouth, wreaking havoc on teeth and gums. Because it takes 20-30 minutes for an acid attack to subside after the last bite or sip, drinking a cola over an extended period of time merely lengthens the period of overly-high acid levels.

• Alcohol – Ahhh… savoring a cold beer by the lake or a poolside daiquiri sounds refreshing, doesn’t it? Although these beverages are cooling to the mouth, alcohol is a drying agent to oral tissues. Even wine or alcoholic drinks with sugarless mixes (such as club soda or tonic) can trigger drying reactions in the mouth.

• Iced Coffees & Teas – Remember the problems created by the acid in colas? Iced coffee and iced tea are acidic as well. They are also caffeinated, which is drying to oral tissues. Add in sweeteners and you have a challenging concoction for the mouth.

• Ice-Cream – Everyone’s favorite summertime dessert, ice-cream, is laden with sugar and fat. Although ice-cream can be a source of calcium, the sugar content can easily deplete its benefits to teeth. Hint: Opt for chocolate ice cream (and sugar-free versions, if available). Chocolate contains anti-oxidants and dissolves quickly in the mouth, reducing sugar’s contact time on teeth.

• Antihistamines – Summer’s blooms (and even grass) cause a number of people to deal with allergic reactions, including itchy eyes and sniffling noses. To lessen the symptoms, a number of antihistamines are available over-the-counter. Keep in mind that these medications typically have a side effect of oral dryness. When the mouth is dry due to these meds, it can last for hours. (By the way, these drying side effects are common in many other medications as well).

For all of these oral dryness challenges, there is an easy solution – water! Drinking lots of plain, filtered water throughout the day not only replenishes moisture in our mouths, it hydrates the body. Keeping adequate hydration levels allows the body (including the mouth) to function more efficiently. In the mouth, especially, water helps to keep saliva flowing at proper levels. Thus, oral bacteria are less likely to reproduce and accumulate.

While we would never suggest that you deny yourself a cold cola with your just-grilled burger or a Marguerita with friends, remind yourself to enjoy a glass of water after each drink or bowl of Rocky Road. We want your summer outings to be relished while you keep your teeth and gums in great shape at the same time!

With simple measures, you will hopefully avoid the time and expense required to treat cavities and gum disease. Plus, you’ll share summer smiles with fresher breath and brighter teeth!

How better to begin your summer than with a healthy smile! For a thorough periodontal check, call 828-274-9440.



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