Soft Drinks and Your Teeth: Don’t Only Blame the Sugar

Soft Drinks and Your Teeth

Never thought you’d hear that from a Dentist did you? As it turns out, when it comes to soft drinks and your pearly whites, the sugar content shouldn’t be your only concern. If, like many others, you think drinking the Diet version is harmless to your teeth, read on!

The Journal of General Dentistry conducted a study involving 20 different brands of soft drinks. The goal was to determine the influence of sodas on our teeth and the loss of enamel.

The enamel is the outermost protective layer of our teeth. It is constantly exposed to the ever changing conditions within our mouths. When these conditions become overwhelming and the tooth is unable to strengthen the enamel, a cavity is formed.

Although many factors contribute to the loss of enamel and the formation of cavities, this study focused on the direct effects of soft drink consumption.

Four categories were included in the study: Cola (Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper etc.), Non-Colas (Sprite, Mountain Dew, 7-Up etc.), Iced Teas (Nestea, Brisk) and Root Beer. Both regular and diet versions of each were tested.

The results were interesting:

  • Regular versions caused more enamel loss than diet (sugar free) soft drinks
  • Non-Cola beverages caused more enamel loss than cola beverages
  • Iced Tea caused roughly the same amount of enamel loss as some of the diet colas
  • Root Beer, surprisingly caused the least amount of enamel loss than all other soft drinks tested
  • For all involved, the longer the drink was in contact with the tooth, the more enamel loss was reported

What Does This Mean?

Although the sugar free versions of soft drinks caused less enamel loss it doesn’t mean they are a safer option. Soft drinks are very acidic, containing both phosphoric and citric acids. These are the same components responsible for enamel loss seen with diet sodas. Adding sugar into this mix causes greater risk for enamel loss and the increase your chances of developing a cavity.

If you think sticking to light coloured or diet sodas or iced tea is a better option, think again! The acid content is higher in these drinks than in Cola drinks. The acid is also found in iced tea so that’s not a great alternative either.

Finally, it makes sense that the more you drink and the more you expose the enamel to soft drinks, the greater risk of enamel loss and cavities.

Bottom Line

Dr. Maciel

I don’t believe in completely cutting out things you enjoy, but to enjoy them in moderation as long as you understand the risks. A well balanced diet with healthy alternatives such as good old water or milk is the best way to go. If you find yourself enjoying these soft drinks on a regular basis, it is especially important to see your dentist regularly to monitor your oral health.

Dr. Nicole Maciel, Winston Churchill Dental

Adapted from the Journal of General Dentistry. Commercial soft drinks: pH and in vitro dissolution of enamel. March/April 2007, Vol. 55, No 2, 151-154.