Health educators and promoters in the Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service encourage people to make healthy choices for a healthy smile.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent tooth decay and the loss of teeth is to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Water and plain milk are the best drinks for a healthy smile.


What are sugar-sweetened drinks?

These are drinks with added sugars, such as:

  • carbonated (fizzy) soft drinks
  • energy drinks and sports drinks
  • packaged flavoured water
  • fruit drinks and cordials
  • fruit juices and packaged fruit-based smoothies
  • flavoured milks and breakfast drinks.


How much sugar is in your drink? 


Serving size

Teaspoons of sugar

Soft drink



Sports drink



Fruit juice



Energy drink



Flavoured milk



Flavoured water



Why you should avoid sugar-sweetened drinks

Sugary drinks are different from food in that they are consumed in massive quantities, have no nutritional value, and are clearly linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Additionally, unlike other foods with sugar, sugary drinks don’t make us feel full.  Sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugar in the NZ diet

Do sugary drinks harm teeth?

Sugary drinks contain large amounts of sugar which dramatically increases the risk of tooth decay.  All sugary drinks, including sugar-free or 'diet' versions contain acids that irreversibly damages teeth through the erosion of tooth enamel.

Is it OK to drink fruit juice?                     

Even unsweetened natural juices contain sugars and acids, so if you are thirsty, it's better to drink water.  The main problem with fruit juice is that it contains no fibre and is very high in sugar.  Eat your fruit, don't drink it.

What about sports drinks and energy drinks?

Energy drinks and sports drinks contain as much sugar as fizzy drinks.  The Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Agency state that energy drinks should not be consumed by children or adolescents and routine consumption of sports drinks should be avoided. 

Are diet drinks ok?                    

Although diet beverages contain no calories, they have a high acid content which harms teeth.  They have the potential to displace water and milk which are the best drink choices for children.  They also maintain a desire for sweet food and drinks.

How about sparkling water?

Unfortunately, sparkling water is acidic due to the carbonation which can combine with the water to form carbonic acid.  This means that sparkling water also has a high acid content which can harm teeth.

What are the other health effects of drinking too many sugary drinks?

The consumption of sugary drinks has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.  For children and youth, an increase of one serving of sugary drinks per day increases the odds of being obese by 60%.  A can a day leads to a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with people who rarely consume such drinks.


Water is the best drink for a healthy smile

The human body is about 70% water so we depend on it for good health. Choosing water instead of sugary drinks is an easy way to make a healthy change. Water provides essential hydration that is sugar-free and virtually cost-free from a tap near you.

Visit our Tap into Water web pages to find out more, and take some inspiration from our champion rugby team the Mako, who know that water is the drink of champions.

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