Is It the Bubbles or the Citrusy Bath Water? Why Sodas Rob You of Your Dental Enamel (hint–it's not the sugar), and What to Drink Instead

Topics: Wellness and Health

“Dissolution of Dental Enamel in Soft Drinks” is the scary title of a University of Maryland Dental School study this month—or, just how bad is soda for your teeth? The dentists tested coffee, tea and water too.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Sprite, Arizona Iced Tea, Ginger Ale, Root Beer, Water, Brewed Black Tea and Coffee (not Green Tea) were all tested on teeth. A U.S. teenage boy drinks, on average 28 ounces of soda daily; a U.S. teenage girl drinks 21 ounces (in 1947, it was roughly 3 ounces). Read full results below.

Some sodas dissolved teeth 180 times more than water. Nearly all sodas all eroded teeth badly. The citrus-based sodas (Sprite, Mountain Dew) were far worse than the dark drinks. Diet or regular didn’t matter—though of course they do to your waist line!

Root beer was the safest soda for your teeth, but it’s still liquid candy. Canned tea was worse than some sodas. Coffee, fresh brewed tea and water didn’t hurt at all.

Why? Maybe because sodas are acidic: all had low pH values. Maybe because people sip them over a long time, giving more exposure to their teeth, and more time to create cavities and erosion. Maybe because there are other additives to soda that combine to take the calcium from your teeth, and send it on its way. It’s not the carbonation–that’s perfectly safe. Soft drinks in schools are not.

Where does the calcium you lose go? You excrete it through the urine. When the carbonated soda contains caffeine, you excrete more, as caffeine is a diuretic. When the soda contains too much phosphorus, bone loss can result–even osteoporosis in teenagers. Most sodas, including those tested, are high in phosphorus, as is red meat.

Is the solution to tax sodas?
Whatever the politics, you only get a chance to build dental enamel once–when your teeth are coming in. And re-building weakened bones is slow, deliberate work.

The best defense against tooth decay is to drink better drinks–try making your own juice by blending a whole peeled orange, a handful of frozen strawberries and a dash of cinnamon, and you’ll have a naturally sweet fruit juice. See other easy recipes, with nutritionals, free.

Allow more time between soft drinks–rinse with good, clean water after drinking. And try the first of the 4 Bs for weight loss: brush your teeth after eating or drinking, each time