When it comes to sweets and teeth, our dentist suggests watching what you drink more than what you eat.

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Story Updated: Mar 7, 2013

I wish I could tell you that cookies, cake, chocolate and other yummy sweets were good for your teeth. That would really make you smile. But here's some surprising news: They're not as bad for your chompers as a sugar-filled coffee or soda. That's because we tend to sip these sweet beverages over extended periods. And the longer we linger with something sugary, the worse it is for our teeth, according to recent research by Tufts University.

Sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth that cause tooth decay. If you treat yourself to dessert and then brush, bacteria don't have much time to consume the sugar. But the research shows that if you nurse a can of sugary soda all day, cavity-causing bacteria thrive. What's more, soda contains high levels of acid, which erodes tooth enamel. So think of soda as a double whammy for your teeth.

If you always want a drink by your side, keep a bottle of water around. It's fine to squirt in a little lemon or orange for some extra flavor.

Finally, I have a special plea to parents of little ones: Don't fill their sippy cups with juice (even if you water it down) and let them walk around with the cups all day long. I've seen too many kids get cavities in their baby teeth because of this common practice. If you want to give your child juice, serve it only at mealtimes. Then fill her sippy cup with the same thing you're drinking: just water.

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