Soft Drink Warning

The great increase in the consumption of soft drinks has resulted in a major increase in the incidences of tooth decay in some patients.* It’s been my observation that the young and elderly are especially vulnerable. Sweet or carbonated beverages have limited, if any nutritional value. They may in fact be harmful to ones general health as well as to their oral health. The list of offending sweet drinks could be extended to include coffee, tea, Gatorade or other sport or power drinks. When bacteria (plaque) in the mouth feed on the sugar in sweet drinks, a strong acid is excreted which can harm the gums and decay the teeth. The affect of the sugar lasts for 20 minutes or more after its consumption.
   
Carbonated soft drinks present an additional risk because they contain carbonic or phosphoric acid (the fizz factors).  Acids leach calcium from the teeth. These acids may do more harm than sugar and are, of course, present in diet soda as well. Many patients (adults as well as teens) mistakenly assume that if there is no sugar, the teeth are safe no matter how much sugar free soda they consume.
   
The most damage is caused when one “sips” on sweet or carbonated beverages over an extended period of time. “Sipping” keeps the acid or sugar continually present. Such a practice greatly increases the chance for harm.

What should you do?

  • Be more careful about eating sweets or carbonated beverages.
  • Make sure water is readily available.
  • Limit the number of between-meal beverages and snacks. When you must snack, choose water and nutritious foods that are low in sugar.
  • Brush thoroughly twice a day with a tartar control, fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Regular dental cleanings and check ups are, of course, a valuable adjunct in preventing or limiting oral health problems.

Why such concern? Soft drinks are a severe enough problem that health authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have begun sounding the alarm about the dangers. Some estimate four in five school age children consume at least one soft drink a day. At least one in five kids consume four or more servings a day.