Oral and general health impact
In the United Kingdom in 2018, the average person consumed an average of 211.5 litres of fizzy drinks per year.1 Fizzy drinks are loaded with sugars and acids which are harmful and damaging to your teeth and health. Just one fizzy drink a day, can add almost an extra 1,000 calories to your diet per week. These extra calories are strongly related to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.2 Whilst many people do enjoy soda and fizzy drinks as a regular treat, it can have damaging long-term effects on your oral and general health. Many people who have the good intention to quit their fizzy drink addiction are well aware of the damaging effects, however struggle to curb the habit due to a variety of different reasons.
Why am I addicted?
Firstly, it should be recognised that stopping your fizzy drink habit, is a lot more difficult than many people realise. There are biochemical reasons why many people crave foods and drinks high in sugar. The human brain is a complicated system that has a reward centre. This reward centre is designed to produce chemicals such as dopamine in response to an action which promotes survival. When you eat food, the brain recognises this as a positive action and provides the feeling of pleasure. Your brain will therefore continue to seek further similar actions that stimulate the release of dopamine. Fizzy drinks and sugary foods however cause a significantly greater release of dopamine in comparison to whole foods. This is the root cause of your cravings. Your brain will seek more and more of those same triggers to seek the same pleasure response.
What are the common signs and symptoms?
Some people find it difficult to recognise the signs you have a fizzy drink addiction. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Strong cravings
- Thirst that can only be satisfied by fizzy drinks
- Mental preoccupation with drinking fizzy drinks
- Inability to moderate your fizzy drink intake
When people who are addicted are unable to drink fizzy drinks, they often experience withdrawal symptoms such as migraines, irritability, low mood and aggressiveness. These are all common signs that you should take a step back and see what changes you can adopt to promote a healthier lifestyle. 3
How does dental decay happen?
Next, it is important to understand how dental decay happens. There are four important factors that must all be present for cavities to form in your teeth.
The only factors in your control however are; the amount of bacteria in your mouth, the amount of sugar you consume and the time both the bacteria and sugar are in your mouth. If sufficient bacteria are given sufficient sugar, and this is allowed to happen for a sufficient length of time, it is evitable that decay in your teeth will happen. The bacteria will use the sugar from your diet to produce acid, which will soften and break down your tooth structure.
You can simply reduce the number of harmful bacteria by adopting a good oral hygiene routine, brushing twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste. The importance of cleaning in between your teeth should not be forgotten. One of the most common areas for dental decay to the start is between your teeth. By omitting interdental cleaning with floss or interdental brushes, you are effectively missing almost 40% of your tooth surfaces. We also always recommend to our patients to allow at least half an hour after a meal or drink, to allow the saliva in your mouth to neutralise the acids. We often provide the analogy of; you wouldn’t pour acid over your brand-new car and then start brushing this into your paintwork. It is exactly the same with your teeth.
Top tips to break the fizzy drink habit:
If you want to take a small step towards a healthier lifestyle, here a few top tips anyone can use to help beat your fizzy drink addiction.
1. Try starting with small steps
Quitting your fizzy drink habit is just the same as quitting any other habit. Many of our patients report similar difficulties with quitting fizzy drinks as quitting their smoking habits. As you would with quitting any habit, it is much easier to take small gradual steps compared to quitting cold turkey. Whilst some people successfully curb their habit by quitting cold turkey, many find the sudden change in routine mentally straining, and this often only results in greater cravings and indulgences. Ambitious and unrealistic expectations of quitting any habit, sometimes cause more damage than good.
2. Choose less acidic carbonated drinks
Some people find it is the carbonation from fizzy drinks they crave rather than the sugar rush. If it is the carbonation you crave, there are considerably less sugary and damaging carbonated drinks available to meet your cravings. Why not consider opting for a refreshing sparkling water with a plastic free straw to reduce some of the damage on your teeth. Whilst these other drinks aren’t perfect for your teeth, they do cause less damage than highly sugary and acidic fizzy drinks. The importance of a plastic free straw is critical for the protection of your teeth. If used correctly, the straw will direct the acidic and sugary drink towards the back of your mouth compared to coating your front teeth in the fizzy drink.
3. Why not try and flavour your water?
“Water is too boring”. This is a common response we hear from our patients when we discuss alternative drinks which are less damaging to your health. If it’s too boring for you to drink plain water, you can always infuse your own flavour with herbs and berries or opt for pre flavoured water. Whilst they may take some time to get used to, it will slowly get you into the mindset of opting for healthier choices.
4. Have you ever considered trying green tea?
For some people, it is the caffeine cravings from fizzy drinks you miss. If this is you, then opt for unsweetened green tea. Green tea is filled with antioxidants and will help prevent the typical sugar crash experienced after sugary fizzy drinks. On a daily basis we speak to patients who say they don’t have much sugar in their diet, however when we delve deeper, we often find sugar in their tea and coffee is often forgotten about. Having two spoons of sugar in your five cups of tea a day, quickly adds up and you will soon start to notice the effects on your oral and general health.
5. Find out what are your personal triggers are and avoid them
Everyone is different. Some people turn to fizzy drinks in times of stress whereas some people routinely have fizzy drinks with their meal. If you know what causes you to turn to those fizzy drinks, make some small changes to avoid those triggers. We have found enlisting the help and support of family and friends to be very useful. Let someone close to you know what you are trying to achieve and encourage them to order you water with your takeaway or restaurant meal instead. These gentle little reminders from someone close to you will provide you with valuable support in your journey to a healthier lifestyle.
The importance of always brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste to strengthen your enamel and help reduce the breakdown of your teeth cannot be emphasised enough. The fluoride in your toothpaste is absolutely critical for the maintenance of good oral health. The process of quitting any habit is difficult but keep up your mission in achieving positive oral and general health. A healthy body can sustain a healthy mind. 4