Soft Drink Destruction by Brian P. Midgette, D.D.S.

July 09, 2013
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"You gotta be kidding me!  How do you not know that soft drinks will absolutely rot your teeth away?"

I feel like asking this of my patients three or four times a week.  Most of the time the patient is between 20 and 40 years old and cannot understand why every time they come in they  have a new cavity (or five or six).

In elementary school we performed an experiment with a chicken bone and cola.  We put the bone in the cola and let it sit for a day or two and when we pulled it out we could practically tie the bone in a knot.  The process at work in the experiment is called demineralization.  The acids in the cola pulled the minerals out of the bone.  The minerals make the bone hard.  The same is true with teeth.

The same thing occurs with enamel on the teeth with prolonged exposure to soft drinks - or any form of acid for that matter.  Soft drinks typically have several types of acid in them (phosphoric, citric, acetic), all strong enough to dissolve tooth structure.

The pH of a solution indicates how acidic that solution is.  The lower the pH number, the stronger the acid is.  Water, for example, has a pH of 7, while battery acid has a pH of 1.  Following is a list of a few popular soft drinks and their acidity as published by the Minnesota Dental Association in 2002. (I have also included the sugar content in a 12-ounce serving as this contributes dramatically to the decay as well as to our waistline; 1 tsp = 4.0 grams):

Minute Maid OJ, 3.8 pH, 9 tsp sugar

Red Bull, 3.3 pH, 10 tsp sugar

Mountain Dew, 3.3 pH, 12 tsp sugar

Full Throttle, 3.0 pH, 11 tsp sugar

Diet Pepsi, 3.0 pH, 0 tsp sugar

Dr. Pepper (my favorite), 2.9 pH, 12 tsp sugar

Minute Maid Lemonade, 2.6 pH, 10 tsp sugar

Pepsi, 2.5 pH, 11 tsp sugar

Diet Schweppes Tonic Water, 2.5pH, 0 tsp sugar

Coca-Cola Classic, 2.4 pH, 10 tsp sugar

I am not saying that you cannot ever have a soft drink but intake must be limited to one or two servings a day and it should not be sipped over several hours (Big Gulp next to the computer at work).  Sipping a soft drink is like bathing the teeth in acid all day long.  As you can see from the list, fruit juices and energy drinks are just as bad as soft drinks and diet drinks are full of acid as well.

The tooth decay caused by the addiction to soft drinks can be devastating.  Often people will notice the black decay on the front teeth close to the gum line, but upon closer examination the decay is usually between the back teeth as well as at the gum line and around the margins of dental fillings.  The expense to restore these cavities can be quite large, and the areas need constant repair if the habit continues.

I am certain that the overuse of these types of drinks can become an addiction created by the combination of good taste and high sugar and caffeine content.  Drink water, or a slightly flavored water, or iced tea, or occasionally a soft drink or fruit drink.  Get that soft drink monkey off your back today and save your smile!