Shelby Township, Michigan Dental Question: I have found during several recent new patient clinical interviews a problem that is not well known to the general public. During discussions about their nutrition it was discovered that they sipped soda throughout the day. This action has lead to severe tooth decay which quite honestly shocked them as they had no clue of the destructive effect of this activity. I feel it is important to post this information and educate the population which will ultimately help many through prevention.
Answer: During this summer many people will grab a pop or ice tea instead of water. It isn’t just cola’s empty calories (about 150 per 12-ounce can) you should worry about. Many of these beverages especially non-cola drinks and canned ice tea — harm enamel, the protective shell around teeth.
A pilot study of the effects some of these beverages had on enamel, appearing in the July/August 2004 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry‘s (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal, found that over time, exposing dental enamel to carbonated beverages and non-carbonated canned ice tea weakens and permanently destroys enamel.
Results from the study, which exposed healthy dental enamel to a variety of popular beverages over a period of 14 days, found that non-colas and canned iced tea were especially harmful. They contain flavor additives, such as malic, tartaric and other organic acids, which are more aggressive at eroding teeth. Root beer, which contains the least amount of flavor additives, was found to be the “safest soft drink to safeguard dental enamel.”
About 27 percent of the beverages consumed by Americans are soft drinks, the study notes. Overall soft drink consumption has steadily increased over the years, and remains on the rise, contributing to an increase in oral health problems, namely cavities. In 1977, 12- to 19-year-olds drank 16 ounces of soda a day. In 1996, this same age group consumed an average of 28 ounces a day.
According to the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies (DNFS), soda consumption has increased from 22.2 gallons of cola per person per year in 1970 to 44 gallons per person per year in 1996. The National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) says that figure increased to 56 gallons in 1999-meaning about 14 billion gallons of soda were consumed in America that year. The NSDA also stated that 95 percent of Americans drink soda; and 27 percent of overall beverage consumption is soda.
Soft drinks and canned beverages are constant features of daily life, and the $54 billion the industry rakes in each year suggests it won’t go away anytime soon. However, soda can be enjoyed in limited quantities. Soda consumed “at meal times is less injurious than when consumed alone and continuous sipping is more harmful than the whole drink taken at one time.”
Sodas combination of sugar and acidity can be lethal to teeth, although the level of risk varies from person to person. Repeated exposure of soda through sipping over a long period of time increases the risk of getting a cavity.
Drinking soda through a straw may help reduce the amount of soda that comes into direct contact with the teeth. Soda drinkers could also rinse their mouths out with water after drinking and use toothpaste that contains fluoride.
A typical 12-once can of regular soda contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Stop sipping at work
A person who consumed 3-4 32 oz beverages per day while working at a computer terminal developed rampant dental decay. If you feel that you or someone you know has these nutritional habits it is important to see your dentist to have your teeth evaluated. It is better to be informed and take proactive steps to prevent tooth loss rather than ignore the harmful effects of frequent soda ingestion. If you have any questions about this please contact us by e-mail at DrAntolak@TheGentleDentist.com