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The Link Between Soda and Oral Health

Whether you call it soda, pop or Coke, there’s little debate that drinking too much can be hazardous to your oral health. While New York City is currently considering restrictions on the sale of soft drinks, the question remains: How much is too much?

Soft drinks are 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. This contributes 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 14 percent of all soft drink consumption, are less harmful. However, they are still acidic and potentially can cause problems.

We’re Drinking More

Soft drink consumption in the United States has increased dramatically over the past several years, especially among children and teenagers. The problem is so severe that health authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have begun warning parents about the dangers of soft drinks.

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 consume four servings a day.

Larger serving sizes make the problem worse. From 6.5 ounces in the 1950s, the typical soft drink is now 20 ounces.

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.

Alternative Beverages

It’s not just soda that causes problems for our teeth. Coffee, fruit juice, sports drinks and wine may be harmful if consumed in large quantities.

Everyone can 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 100 percent fruit juice.
  • Rinse with water: After consuming a soft drink, flush your mouth with water.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse: Fluoride reduces cavities and strengthens tooth enamel, so brush with fluoride-containing toothpaste. Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash also can help.
  • 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.