Soda consumption is on the rise.  Currently, Americans drink more than 53 gallons of carbonated soda per person per year.  Soda consumption has increased by 500% over the past 50 years, and this trend shows no sign of leveling off.  As a country, we drink more soda than milk, beer, coffee, or water.  What does this mean for your teeth?

Let’s break it down.

Soda contains the following:  sugar, acid, artificial coloring, and in most cases caffeine.  As far as your teeth are concerned, the 2 major culprits are sugar and acid.

A 12-ounce can of soda contains the equivalent of 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar.  While you would never dream of shoveling this much sugar into your mouth, it goes down pretty easily in a drink.  More sugar brings more risk of decay.

While it is common knowledge that sodas containing sugars are bad for your teeth, a common misconception is that sugar-free sodas are okay.  I’ve had several patients say “it’s okay Doc, I only drink diet soda.”

It’s not just the sugars in soda that harm your teeth, but the acid content. Most sodas contain one or two common acids – phosphoric acid and citric acid.  The pH of regular and diet soda is in the 2.5 range, which is quite acidic.  In contrast, the pH level in your mouth is around 6.2-7.0 which is only slightly more acidic than water.

What does the acid do?

The acid in soda eats away at your tooth enamel, which, when combined with the sugar content, contributes significantly to tooth decay. Even if you drink diet soda, the acid in it can still erode your teeth enamel. This leads to softening and wearing away of the enamel, cavities, and tooth sensitivity.  So drinking sugar free sodas is not the answer.

The bottom line?  Water is a much better alternative to soda for your teeth, not to mention your overall health. When you do drink soda, it’s best to drink it with a meal because the food you eat will help dilute the acid. And if you can, brush your teeth right after having a soda.

Your friendly dentist,
Dr. Sarah Po
January 19, 2010