Often times during an exam, I will make recommendations for changes in diet. The one thing that seems to be coming up more and more often is the question of drinks, particularly diet sodas. It is no secret that we Utahns love our soda pop. Walk into any Maverik or Common Cents convenience store and you will see people filling up large tankers of soda pop in front of large soda machines with flashing lights and countless options of soda flavors. While these drinks are delicious and make us happy, the truth is that soda pop is hard on teeth.
I am often asked if diet colas are any better for your teeth than regular sugared sodas. So much of the research on soda pop is focused on the effects of sugars on the body. Still, there are other ingredients in soda pops that cause real troubles we need to be conscious of. While this is by no means a thorough review on sodas, nor their effects on the teeth or body as a whole, hopefully there are some thoughts here that will be of benefit.
Sugars found in sodas have many effects on the body and can contribute to such problems as obesity and diabetes. Even artificial sweeteners found in diet and low calorie sodas have many effects on the body. However, what about the acids? Sodas, even diet sodas are loaded with acidic ingredients. Every carbonated beverage contains carbonic acid, and nearly all have either phosphoric or citric acid, or both. The effects of acid, particularly on teeth is a real concern when it comes to risk of decay and other dental problems. So the answer is in fact that, “Yes, diet pop is similarly harmful to teeth as regular sodas.”
When looking at the acidic level of carbonated drinks and their effects on teeth, we have to consider two factors; what is the level of acidity and how long are our teeth being exposed to the drink. When considering the acidity, we use the pH scale, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being most basic. Water has a pH of 7. When we eat or drink acidic foods and drinks, our body must call upon stored minerals, such as calcium phosphate, to help buffer and aid in digestion. Calcium phosphate is an important component of our teeth and bones. When looking at the pH of many popular sodas, they range anywhere from 4.28 down to 2.3. Colas are often times most acidic, coming in between 2.3 and 2.8. Tooth enamel begins to erode at a pH of 5.7.
In order to minimize the ill effects of this acid erosion on our teeth specifically, it is best to eliminate acidic drinks wherever possible. If one is to continue to drink sodas and other acidic beverages, there are a couple of hints to help minimize the ill-effects without giving up their soda.
- Drink the soda in one sitting rather than sipping throughout the day. It makes sense that once you drink a little soda, your saliva will do its best to buffer the acids in your mouth. Saliva will do a decent job, but cannot keep up if you are sipping, repeatedly bringing in acid that lowers your mouth’s pH. Your enamel will continue to erode if the pH is not brought back to a more neutral level. Remember, your enamel will begin eroding at a pH of 5.7.
- After drinking soda, follow it with a good rinsing of water. Water will help neutralize the acids and prevent further erosion of your enamel.
Hopefully, these tips will prove helpful. For many, soda is like a friend, by your side for much of the day. There are many helpful online tips for decreasing the amount of acidic drinks we consume or even giving them up all together. Still, just a conscious effort will go along way in helping minimize the effect of soda on your teeth.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact either Dr. Jeremy Felt in our Roy office or Dr. David Felt in our Layton office. We are always available to answer any questions and offer whatever help we are able.
Dave Felt, DDS