Carbonated Soft Drinks Erode Tooth Enamel and Lead to Tooth Decay
It’s called “pop” in the Midwest and most of Canada. It’s “soda” in the Northeast. It goes by a well-known brand name in much of the South. And in Pennsylvania, “pop” and “soda” are used depending on if you live in the eastern or western part of the state. But however people say it, they’re talking about something that can cause serious oral health problems – carbonated soft drinks.
Soft drinks have emerged as one of the most significant dietary sources of tooth decay, affecting people of all ages. Acids and acidic sugar byproducts in soft drinks soften tooth enamel, contributing to the formation of cavities. In extreme cases, softer enamel combined with improper brushing, grinding of the teeth or other conditions can lead to tooth loss.
Sugar-free drinks, which account for only 14 percent of all soft drink consumption, are less harmful. However, they are acidic and potentially can still cause problems.
We’re Drinking More and More
Soft drink consumption in the United States has increased dramatically across all demographic groups, especially among children and teenagers. The problem is so severe that health authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have begun sounding the alarm about the dangers.
How many school age children drink soft drinks? Estimates range from one in two to more than four in five consuming at least one soft drink a day. At least one in five kids consumes a minimum of four servings a day. Larger serving sizes make the problem worse. From 6.5 ounces in the 1950s, the typical soft drink has grown to up to 20 ounces today.
Children and adolescents aren’t the only people at risk. Long-term consumption of soft drinks has a cumulative effect on tooth enamel. As people live longer, more will be likely to experience problems.
What to Do
Children, adolescents and adults can all benefit from reducing the number of soft drinks they consume, as well as from available oral care therapies. Here are some steps you can take:
- Substitute different drinks: Stock the refrigerator with beverages containing less sugar and acid such as water, milk and fruit juice. Drink them yourself and encourage your kids to do the same.
- Rinse with water: After consuming a soft drink, flush your mouth with water to remove vestiges of the drink that can prolong exposure of tooth enamel to acids.
- Use fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse: Fluoride reduces cavities and strengthens tooth enamel, so brush with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash also can help. The dentists at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs can recommend an over-the-counter mouthwash or prescribe a stronger one depending on the severity of the condition. They also can recommend a higher fluoride toothpaste.
- Get professionally applied fluoride treatment: Your dental hygienist can apply fluoride in the form of a foam, gel or rinse.
Soft drinks are hard on your teeth. By reducing the amount you drink, practicing good oral hygiene, and seeking help from your dentist and hygienist, you can counteract their effect and enjoy better oral health.