Soft drinks are no longer an occasional treat; they’ve become a daily habit for a growing number of kids, teens and young adults. We’ve all heard soda is bad for our teeth.But did you know a steady of diet of soft drinks can lead to tooth decay and how bad is it really? Does it matter how often you drink it? Is diet soda better?
Here we’ll explore what it actually does to your teeth, which ones are the worst, and if there are any alternatives.
First, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients in a typical can of soda.
What’s in Soda?
Most sodas contain carbonated water, a sweetener, natural or artificial flavoring, and sometimes artificial coloring.
From a dental perspective, the ingredients we’re most interested in are soda’s sweetener and carbonated water.
The sweetener could be sugar (as in traditional Coca-Cola), high-fructose corn syrup, or another sugar substitute (usually aspartame).
The carbonated water is what gives soda its refreshing, bubbly taste. Dissolved carbonic acid is what makes the drink carbonated, but many sodas contain other acids as well, which means soda is an extremely acidic drink.
What soda does to your teeth
Some people think that if they drink a diet soda, the lack of sugar eliminates the risk of cavities. Actually, sugar-free soda is not much better, because it still contains acid – in fact, diet soda often contains more acid than regular soft drinks. Phosphoric acid is primarily used in cola, while citric acid is typically found in citrus-flavored drinks. Phosphoric acid is stronger in most cases, but citric actually tends to be more damaging over the long-run.
Acid levels are ranked on the pH scale where the lower the number, the more acidic the substance is. Battery acid ranks 1.0 on the scale. Studies show that RC Cola ranked 2.39, and most sodas rank near or below a 3. Milk sits around 6.5 on the scale. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, adult fish die in levels 3-5. Acid rain is anywhere from 1-5. Pure water is pH 7, which is neutral.
It’s generally considered that darker-colored soda is slightly worse than light-colored or clear soda. However, both contain astronomically high levels of acid. All soda is destructive to your teeth.
Sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth, which produces an acidic substance. Acid wears away your enamel, which exposes the softer layers of your teeth to dental decay. Whether you drink regular or diet drinks, they both contain high levels of acid, which essentially just skips a step and puts acid in direct contact with your teeth.
- Do: Drink soda through a straw if you want to lower your risk of dental cavities.
- Don’t: Brush your teeth right after drinking an acidic beverage, because you’re basically scrubbing the acid into your enamel. Wait a little while, or rise your mouth with water first.
What About Diet Soda?
Many patients want to know if diet soda is less harmful than regular soda. It’s true, diet soda doesn’t have sugar, but it’s still very acidic. And ultimately, the acid is the most dangerous factor when it comes to your tooth enamel and overall oral health.
So, diet soda isn’t a good alternative to regular soda, because it’s still extremely acidic.
How Much Soda is Too Much?
That’s a tough question to answer, because it’s not just how much but how often you drink soda that determines how harmful it is.
Soda, if ingested in moderation, along with a meal, can be OK. It’s even better if you drink or rinse with water and brush you teeth after drinking soda.The real problem is consistent soda-drinking. Sipping even just one can or bottle of soda all day is not good. It’s a constant sugar and acid bath in your mouth that promotes decay.
So what can you do to protect your teeth?
- Cut back – way back – on acidic drinks.
- Add more water to your daily diet in place of sodas.
- Use a straw when you drink.
- Don’t confuse diet soda with a healthy alternative. Diet drinks are just as acidic as regular sodas.
- Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda. The rinse may remove some acid from your teeth, although abstaining from the soda would do more good.
- Hold off on brushing your teeth after drinking soda. Brushing too hard can weaken enamel that is already covered in acid.
Drinking pure water is the only way to avoid acid altogether. If you don’t want to give up soft drinks, there are a few options that can still cause damage but are slightly less harmful to your pearly whites.
Studies found that even fruit juice, which can be quite acidic, is still much less damaging than soda. No matter what you drink, the key is to consume it in moderation balanced by plenty of water. If you continue to brush your teeth, floss and swish with mouthwash every day, you will have a much better chance of fighting cavities and keeping your mouth sparkling clean.