Soft drinks and tooth decay

July 19, 2010

It’s the middle of the afternoon and a quick pick-me-up would taste great. Reach for a soda. Dinner is over and something to wash down the meal is in order. Grab a soda. After a morning on the beach or a hard game of tennis, a cold and wet drink would be refreshing. What’s one more soda? One more soda may be one too many. The sugar and acid in those sodas are doing a lot of damage to teeth, gums and bones by eroding the enamel.

Sugar Plus Acid Equal Tooth Decay

Regular sodas can contain the equivalent of nine to 12 teaspoons of sugar per can. Get an extra large drink, and the amount of sugar is supersized, too. While many people find the sweet taste of soda enjoyable, the bacteria in the mouth consider all that sugar an all-you-can-eat buffet. The sugar interacts with the bacteria, producing acid which can cause dental erosion and weaken gums.

It takes 20 minutes or less for the acids in the mouth to start eating away at tooth enamel. A constant diet of sodas means a lot more visits to the dentist in the future.

The Acid in Diet Sodas Are Just as Bad

Switching to diet sodas because they seem healthier won’t work. Although diet sodas don’t contain sugar, they still contain chemicals that can erode tooth enamel and cause cavities.

Automotive mechanic might reach for phosphoric acid to clean battery terminals, but they wouldn’t want to drink it. Surprise. Sodas also contain carbonic or phosphoric acid which, over time, can dissolve the calcium out of a tooth’s enamel. Without the protection of the enamel layer, the soft tissue underneath is open to bacteria leading to cavities and tooth destruction. Over time, the acid can also weaken gums and jawbones.

Getting a cavity filled is bad enough, but diseased and weakened gums and jawbones are a leading cause of tooth loss. Soda today, dentures tomorrow.

Tips on Cutting down on Soda to Protect Your Teeth

The best thing to do? Cut out sodas. Not ready to go cold turkey? At least cut down on the number of drinks.

  • When drinking sodas, don’t sip them slowly. The longer the soda stays in the mouth, the more time the acid has to erode tooth enamel. This is one time when drinking fast is actually a healthy decision.
  • Use a straw. Drinking through a straw means less of the soda will be in direct contact with a tooth’s surface.
  • After drinking a soda, drink water to rinse away some of the acid.
  • Substitute other drinks for some sodas. A glass of cold water is nice. Or drink some herbal tea. But stay away from too many fruit juices or fruit drinks as they often contain a lot of sugar.
  • Consider using one of the new pro-enamel toothpastes that help protect the tooth’s outer layer.

Remember, nature only gave people one set of adult teeth. Take care of them and they’ll last a lifetime.


Sources: “Soda Pop and Your Dental Health.””” 9 Foods That Trash Your Teeth: Diet Sodas.”   “ “How much sugar do they really put in soft drinks?”


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