the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Jun 16, 2022
Fact Checked

Sugary drinks can affect the teeth by causing tooth decay and tooth erosion. These drinks include soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, pre-made iced teas, and fruit juice. The best choices for tooth-friendly drinks include water and milk. Tap water is the preferred option because in many Australian communities, the community tap water has fluoride added to it at the recommended level to help protect and strengthen teeth.

Sugary drinks are well known to be unhealthy for both the health of the body and the mouth. They can cause weight gain and obesity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Sugary drinks can also affect the teeth by causing tooth decay and tooth erosion. These drinks include soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, pre-made iced teas, and fruit juice.

Sugary drinks, such as soft drinks and energy drinks, have no nutritional value. A 600ml bottle of soft drink can contain up to 16 teaspoons of sugar, which equals 64 grams of sugar. If you place only 1 teaspoon of sugar in your tea or coffee, imagine spooning 16 teaspoons in before drinking. This is much higher than the recommended amount of sugar for the average adult which is 6 teaspoons of sugar per day (24 grams). There is scientific evidence to support that this amount of sugar per day can help to decrease the risk of developing tooth decay.

Sugary drinks contribute the most added sugar to Australian diets. The biggest consumers of sugary drinks are young males.

Fruit juice

Whole fruits are good for our health and when not consumed in excess they do not damage our teeth. They are made of fibre that helps to feel full. Fruit juice removes the fibre and leaves all the sugar behind so while you may eat one orange, when drinking fruit juice, there are multiple oranges squeezed to make the juice meaning more sugar and less fibre to fill you up. As an alternative to fruit juice, try eating a piece of fruit and having a drink of water.

Are sugar-free alternatives better?

The sugar-free alternatives of soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks may not contain sugar, but this does not make them a healthier option for your teeth. These drinks have a low pH, making them acidic. Regularly drinking acidic drinks can cause the teeth to wear away, known as tooth erosion.

How do I find a healthy option?

Health Star Ratings are a quick and easy way to help you choose healthier packaged foods and drinks.

The Health Star Rating System is a food labelling system used in Australia and New Zealand. It started in 2014. Manufacturers of packaged foods and drinks may choose to put a star rating on the label of their product. The star ratings range from ½ to 5 stars. The rating is made using a calculator that looks at nutrients and ingredients in the food or drink. The higher the stars, the healthier the drink is compared similar products. The lower the star rating, the less healthy the drink is. 

Check out this guide for using the Health Star Rating.

On-the-go tips

When out and about, take a reusable water bottle filled with water that can be refilled with fresh tap water. This helps to reduce plastic waste, save money and is good for your health. Keep sugar free chewing gum available to chew on-the-go if you choose to consume a sugary or fizzy drink.

More information

For more information on sugary drinks and their effects on the mouth and body.