“The first patient I ever picked up on her habits was in the early ’90s,” Townsend recalls. “She had several restorations done. When she came back a couple months later, the edges of one of the fillings was already decaying.”
When he asked his patient about her habits, she said she only drank one soda a day — but she sipped on that one soda all day and even at night.
“She was bathing her teeth in the soda all day and all night,” Townsend said.
In a recent issue of General Dentistry, a case study was published that found “dental erosion lesions associated with diet soda could demonstrate similar clinical features and characteristics of destruction in the hard dental tissues as those observed in patients who abuse methamphetamine and crack cocaine.”
Soda destroys teeth because of its high acidic content, Townsend explained, saying the acid will eat away the enamel, which makes the surface of teeth rough.
“A pH of one would be like battery acid,” Townsend said. “Anything that has a pH of five or less will dissolve enamel. Sodas have a pH level of 2.8 to three.”
The body doesn’t regenerate enamel, so once tooth enamel is gone, it is gone forever. Townsend suggests sipping on water to satisfy thirst, but there are ways to minimize the damage from soda.
“Sodas should not be sipped, but drank, and usually with a meal,” Townsend said. “Parents are often uninformed about the problems with sipping sodas, so the first step is to educate the parents so that they can train their children.”
Not only does soda damage teeth, but it also offers no nutritional benefit, says Marchale Burton, extension office urban regional agent for Calhoun and Etowah counties. The sugar in sodas — often listed on labels as glucose, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup and sorbitol — are empty calories, meaning they do not provide any nutrients. Sodas also leach calcium from bones, a major contributor to osteoporosis, she said.
Burton says the amount of sugar Americans consume has steadily increased over the years, to just under three pounds a week.
“One teaspoon of sugar has about 15 calories, one teaspoon of corn syrup has about 20 calories. Soft drinks are responsible for most of the added sugar in the American diet,” Burton said.
Instead of soft drinks, Burton suggests drinking vegetable and fruit juices because they add nutrients, or best of all, water.
“It was the first beverage that we had on earth. The body is made up of water,” she said. “It is needed for proper body elimination, transporting vitamins and minerals throughout the body. Water is also the cooling system for the body.”
Humans should consume eight 8-ounce servings of water a day to maintain the correct amount of water needed to keep the body at its best, Burton said. Replacing sodas with water will help accomplish that, as well as reducing a person’s caloric intake.
According to Burton, one clear effect that sodas have on the diet is weight gain, which may lead to other chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic heart disease and high cholesterol.
“One 12-ounce soda would give us all the sugar that we need in one day,” Burton said. “Unfortunately we are super sizing soft drinks every time we go to a restaurant, not to mention the sugary drinks we are drinking at home.”