Soda: it’s fizzy, sweet, and delicious. Unfortunately, it’s not great for our teeth. While most people know this, to some extent, many would be surprised to learn precisely how damaging soda can be for our oral health. And considering that about 50% of the U.S. population has at least one pop each day, this is becoming a significant problem for dental health in America.
Here’s what you need to know.
How Soda Impacts Health
While it may be delicious, it’s certainly not good for us. Here are a few massive ways soda can impact our health and wellbeing:
- Soda is linked to weight gain. Soda pop includes added sugar, typically in the form of sucrose or table sugar. These sweeteners supply simple sugars known as fructose in massive amounts. Unfortunately, fructose doesn’t do anything to lower or hunger hormones or stimulate feelings of fullness in the same ways as actually nutritionally-dense foods. When you consume liquid sugar, as seen in soda and other sugary drinks, you add more calorie intake and no more nutritional value to your daily diet. Because of this, people who drink soda on top of their daily caloric intake consumed 17% more calories than people who drink water, instead. This additional caloric intake leads to weight gain and increasing obesity levels. Additionally, since sugar increases belly fat accumulation, people who consume sugary drinks have higher levels of skin fat than people who do not.
- Sugar becomes fat in the liver. Sugar is composed of two unique molecules – glucose and fructose. While your body can metabolize glucose, fructose can only be metabolized by your liver. Since sugary drinks like soda are high in fructose, drinking them in excess overloads the liver and starts turning fructose into fat. This fat then makes its way into your bloodstream as triglycerides, while the rest of it remains in the liver. Left alone for too long, this condition contributes to fatty liver disease.
- Drinking soda can cause insulin resistance. Insulin drives glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. When this process is healthy, it’s critical for sustaining life. When people drink excessive levels of sugary soda, though, your cells become less sensitive to the impact of insulin. In these cases, the pancreas has to kick into overdrive, making more insulin to remove glucose from your bloodstream. This, then, causes insulin levels in your blood to spike. This, then, creates insulin resistance, which is one of the main factors lurking behind type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and similar disorders.
What Soda Does to Our Teeth
By now, you know that soda can increase your waistline, cause insulin resistance, and become an underlying factor for conditions like diabetes. What about how soda affects your smile, though? Here are a few impacts you might not be aware of:
1. Soda Increases the Acid Content in Your Mouth
When you take a swig of soda, the acids within it interact with the bacteria in your mouth to create acid. The acid, a bad actor in its own rite, goes to work on your teeth, attacking the enamel that surrounds and protects teeth, leading to cavities and tooth decay, and causing your gums to pull back from your teeth, exposing tender roots and hastening the process of decay.
Think this process takes a long time to enact or only happens if you drink seven sodas a day? Think again. Each sip of every soda you take kicks off a chain reaction that lasts for about 20 minutes. That means that if you sip soda all day, your mouth is under a veritable attack.
2. Soda Causes Erosion
That sugary, bacteria reaction creates a dangerous process known as erosion. Erosion starts when the acid produced by soft drinks and the bacteria in your mouth comes into contact with the enamel surrounding your teeth.
Over time (it happens very quickly, though), the reaction drills away at the hard surface of your enamel, causing holes that allow bacteria into the center of the tooth and leading to significant decay, discoloration, and more.
Over time, this erosion can also lead to cavities and other forms of tooth decay. Even teeth with composite fillings are not immune to this, as decay locates the fringes of the filling and damages the enamel there, as well.
3. Soda can Discolor Teeth
The acid content in soda contains chromogens, which are compounds with strong pigments that cling to enamel and create discoloration. Because of this, drinking a great deal of soda can make your teeth appear yellow, brown, or even green. Even brushing right away after drinking may not be enough to get rid of this discoloration, if you drink soda frequently enough.
How to Mitigate Dental Damage
While drinking soda is the best way to prevent the damage caused by acids and sugars, most dentists would agree that the occasional pop won’t destroy your dental health. If you want to keep your teeth healthy throughout, though, here are a few tips to follow:
- Drink soda in moderation. Even a single soft drink a day will do massive damage to your teeth. For best results, keep your soda consumption to on can a week or less.
- Drink it quickly. Don’t savor your soft drink, and don’t swish it around in your mouth. Instead, drink it quickly and use a straw. This gives the acids and bacterias in the soda less time to go to work on your teeth.
- Rinse your mouth afterward. As soon as you finish your soda, swish your mouth with water. This will wash away excess sugar and acids, and stop them from drilling into your teeth. 30 to 60 minutes after you finish your drink, brush your teeth thoroughly.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Financially, the best defense against ongoing dental decay is to visit your dentist. Regular cleaning and check-ups will help identify issues before they get worse.
Ready to schedule your first dental appointment? Contact our offices today.
Dr. Felicity is a National Board Certified Dentist and a Longtime resident of Charleston.