It’s MAY already? The year is flying by. Not always a bad thing! After a Michigan winter, May’s warming weather reminds us that we’re ready for some fun in the sun.
With outdoor gatherings and activities, you’ll often find a cooler of drinks nearby. Before you pull that tab, though, consider that those soft drinks can lead to costly, time-consuming dental repairs.
“Soft drinks.” Now, that’s a misleading name for what they can do to teeth and gums. Colas can contribute to a number of health problems, including an ability to cause cavities and enamel erosion. Yet, most people are unaware of just how erosive the acids from cola can be. Even sugar-free soft drinks can cause a similar erosion level as those containing sugar.
The acidity levels in colas have been compared to that approaching the levels in battery acid. Colas are so acidic because they are infused with phosphoric acid that adds flavor. Phosphoric acid is inexpensive and widely available and is a common ingredient in fertilizers, detergents and industrial cleaners. In certain uses, it is accompanied by arsenic.
Phosphoric acid is so erosive it can remove rust from aircraft carriers and ships. Imagine the damage that can be done to your teeth and bone health.
When you add the erosive acids in a cola to the acids that occur naturally in the mouth each time you consume food or beverages, the boosted levels of acidity have tremendous potential to erode tooth enamel. Symptoms of dental erosion include temperature sensitivity, pain, transparent teeth, cracking and darkening of teeth.
As bad as the erosion factor is on teeth, it’s often the way colas are consumed that ramps up the damage. Take, for example, someone sipping on a cola for a period of time. Remember, every time we eat or drink, an acid attack begins in the mouth as part of our digestive process. This ‘natural’ acid flow is active for about 30 minutes after eating or drinking ceases.
So, when you sip a cola for a half-hour period, the acid attack lasts that long PLUS another 30 minutes. When you combine the sugar and acid in the drink to your digestive acids, you reduce surface hardness of tooth enamel for an extended period of time.
Because soft drinks can weaken tooth enamel, they become more vulnerable to decay. In this state, it is also easier for teeth to become stained. The caramel color in many colas easily contributes to the yellowing of teeth.
The U.S. has the highest per-capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in the world. According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, Americans drink more than 50 gallons per capita of carbonated soft drinks annually. In addition to tracking the consumption of carbonated soft drinks, the organization also monitors consumption of bottled water, coffee, tea, milk, fruit drinks, beer, wine and spirits. Of all those they track, carbonated soft drinks make up the largest segment.
Health concerns about soft drinks have led many schools to remove sodas from drink machines and cafeterias. Obviously, dentists are also urging children, teens and adults to steer clear of sodas.
While it is important to stay hydrated, especially when participating in sports or working outdoors, colas are the opposite of hydrating. Colas not only contain phosphoric acid, they contain caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic that causes water depletion. It has been shown that consuming carbonated drinks during hot weather can result in dehydration and heighten the risk for heat stroke.
Don’t let the commercials about “refreshing” soft drinks fool you. You can do your smile and your overall health a favor by reaching instead for a bottle of water. If you prefer flavor in your beverage, add apple, strawberry, cucumber or orange slices to chilled, filtered water.
Rethink your cola consumption this summer and what you ice down in your cooler. Colas are no friend to your smile. Bypass the soft drinks for water and avoiding cavities, tooth erosion, and the need for fillings, crowns and other repairs that can be costly and time-consuming.