Leaving home and coming to college again always changes my routine and diet. I eat less often and drink more water – contrary to the usual Diet Cokes I had practically daily when I was back with my friends in New Jersey. We drank Diet Coke so often we felt like we were suffering from deprivation headaches when we skipped out on it. Of course, it never left my mind how my mom used to tell me all my teeth were going to fall out if I continued drinking soda. So, now I question, does drinking soft drinks ultimately lead to damage of your teeth?
In a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, published in their journal General Dentistry, they decided to test how the acidic component of common soft drinks actually impacts tooth enamel. They experimented with the different types of soda products, conclusively reporting that those containing citric or phosphoric acid – or even both – do indeed damage human teeth.
This introduces evidence that is consistent with my question. The procedure of the experiment began with placing pieces of the enamel from teeth into twenty different sodas, including Diet Coke, for two days. The largest weight loss measured from the teeth, or how much enamel was lost, was more than 5%, and regular Coca-Cola, as Kenton Ross from the Academy of General Dentistry stated, was the most acidic with a pH of 2.387 (0 is completely acidic on the pH scale). It was established from the research that colas were higher on the acidic side than other sodas, but regular Coca-Cola, Cherry Coke, and Coke went to the extent of having practically the same pH as battery acid, which is kind of disturbing. Of course, although many soft drinks appear to be unhealthy towards dental hygiene, it cannot be proven as the only accountable cause for tooth erosion.
Confounding variables are not ruled out for other things leading to the decay of teeth. First, there are differences among people’s habits in their environments. People eat a variety of foods and also do not drink the same amount of soda – not everyone relies on Diet Coke like my friends and I do. Based on the actual soft drink content, cases of tooth erosion vary based on how much calcium is in it and whether citric acid, found to be the worse kind, or another acid exists in the drink.
Since the study was experimental, the researchers were able to provide evidence of a correlation between soda consumption and enamel loss. However, this information may not be the most realistic in society because when people drink a beverage, they do not hold it in their mouth for two days. The same results should appear eventually, but much more slowly than the study portrayed. In class we talked about how the effects of smoking took almost twenty years to show up as lung cancer in smokers. Perhaps this could be a possibility in this situation, meaning that the evidence of damaged teeth from soda may not show up until a later age – something that would probably have to be looked at in a longitudinal study.
Therefore, it is easy to be weary of accepting this as a proven hypothesis, but it might be worth trying to decrease the amount of soda in your diet in order to save your teeth – something it looks like I will have be telling my friends. If that fails, a substitute could be root beer, which was found to contain the least amount of acid compared to the other drinks.
If anyone is interested in seeing the effects of a tooth sitting in a soft drink for just twenty-four hours on video, click here to see some concerning results.