Sipping Away at Your Enamel

The Connection Between Soda, Sugars and Tooth Decay

Are you “sipping away” at your enamel? Is a soda straw Public Enemy Number One for your teeth? Do you remember the grade school science experiment where you dropped a tooth in a cup of cola and waited to see what happened? After some time, that tooth was not too pretty, and as a impressionable youngster you swore off all cola drinks. That promise lasted about half a day.

If you keep up with trends, you’re probably consuming even more soda now than you did as a child. Has soda undergone a scientific transformation that now makes it good for you and your smile? No, the news is still not good. We even have a term for the clash of soda versus teeth – “Mountain Dew Mouth.” Soft drinks, cola, soda, pop, sweet teas, whatever you prefer, they are tooth enamel’s worst enemy!

What’s So Bad About Soda and Sweet Tea?

Is it just the sugar in soda that damages your teeth? No, but since we’re on the subject, let’s see what exactly is so bad about a sugary drink. It’s not like you’re chewing cola, and it can’t stick to your teeth like a chewy piece of candy, so it can’t possibly be that bad, right? Wrong, the sugar and chemicals in soda causes the bacteria in your mouth to have a field day, at the expense of your tooth enamel. Sodas do stick to your teeth, keeping the sugars and the acids right next to your enamel. This leads to cavities, called “caries” by dentists, and these pits, holes and fissures are a direct result of your enamel being eaten away by the additional acids made by bacteria. Yes, bacteria excrete acids as they devour sugars and carbohydrates, and it’s this bacterial excrement that also creates tooth decay. During your visits to the Placerville Dental Group, discussing all your dental habits, the good, the bad and the sugary, will help educate you as to what these very tasty drinks are doing to your teeth.

So you promise to switch to diet drinks; now are you safe? Nope, you are still dealing with all the acidic substances that want to break down your teeth and their precious enamel. But is a liquid soft drink really able to break down something as tough as tooth enamel? Let’s get back to that little science experiment in grade school, but this time we’ll let the experts be in charge.

Comparing Sodas and Teas with Tooth Decay

In a controlled study, a pair of researchers tested a large variety of soft drinks, teas and sports beverages and published their findings in the journal Operative Dentistry. In fourteen days of constant exposure (which equals thirteen years in teeth time) what were the results? You may be surprised where your beverage of choice ends up in the research.

  • Sweet tea and sports drinks are no friends of your teeth. All that sugar, with or without the fizz, is going to do damage, even more so than sugary colas.
  • Diet Mountain Dew was the worst offender against your teeth, proving that “Mountain Dew Mouth” is named that for a reason. Regular Mountain Dew was right behind as the co-champion of tooth destroyers, but all the popular sweet and acidic sodas were found to be hazardous as well.
  • Root beer, of all the sweetened drinks, did the best, actually causing little harm to teeth.
  • Diet sodas and drinks don’t feed the bacteria on your teeth with sugar, but they still destroy enamel, sometimes causing more tooth decay than their sugary counterparts. It’s all about the acid and how it sticks to the enamel when it comes to diet soft drinks.
  • Unsweetened teas and coffees did little harm, although they contribute greatly to staining your teeth, leaving your smile at less than its best.
  • Water did no damage to the teeth in this experiment, as you might expect.

What Does This Information Tell Us?

Armed with this information, what is a thirsty person to do — just drink plain old boring water all day? That is an option, but not the only one. Sip on that plain water throughout the day, and save the sodas for meal times only, if you really must have them. When you’re sipping on a 32 ounce soda, or, worse yet, a monster 72 ouncer, your teeth are bathing in sugary acids for hours at a time. Your poor mouth can’t produce enough saliva to wash away all the acids from the drinks and the bacteria.

Mountain Dew Mouth, Diet Pepsi Dentures, Red Bull Breath, whatever your drink of choice is, remember that your teeth and dental health will pay the price. If you must drink the soda, here are some tips to limit the damage.

How To Limit Tooth Decay from Sweet and Acidic Drinks

  • Follow soda with some sugar-free gum containing xylitol. This will help wash away some of that citric acid that wants to stick to your enamel and cause horrible trouble.
  • Think of soda as a treat with meals, not a day-long source of hydration.
  • Get reacquainted with tap water and take the money you’ll save and put it in your 72-ounce piggy bank.

Then smile all the way to the bank as you kick the soda addiction and give your teeth a fighting chance to stay healthy!

Oct 21, 2013 | Oral Health


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