It turns out that when your mom used to tell you to quit drinking soda because it rots your teeth, she was right. Kim McFarland, D.D.S., the associate professor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry in Lincoln, has noticed an increase in the cases of tooth enamel erosion among patients which has been linked to the consumption of soda. The enamel is the protective layer of the tooth and once it has eroded, it cannot be reversed and the patients will feel the effects their whole lives.
Dr. McFarland claims, “I’d see erosion once in a while 25 years ago but I see much more prevalence nowadays.” She concludes, “A lot of young people drink massive quantities of soda. It’s no surprise we’re seeing more sensitivity.”
Soda’s Effect on Teeth
The National Soft Drink Association estimates that the average American drinks over 40 gallons of soda per year. Both regular and diet sodas contain phosphoric and citric acid that change the pH balance in the mouth which is what causes tooth erosion. The severity of the erosion depends on the frequency and amount of soda consumed, but in certain cases it can be quite severe. According to Dr. McFarland, the erosion “can be more harmful than cavities because the damage causes tooth sensitivity.” She continues, “If a tooth is decayed a dentist can fix it by placing a filling, but if a tooth is sensitive there is really nothing a dentist can do.”
Tooth Sensitivity Problems
Tooth sensitivity is a problem that can greatly affect those that suffer from it throughout their lives. It can have a huge effect on food and drink choices as hot and cold substances can easily reach the tooth’s exposed nerves and cause pain. Even cold air can trigger pain in sufferers of tooth erosion. Dr. McFarland says that some patients tell her “when they go outside in the winter they don’t open their mouth or the cold air causes pain.”
It is generally recommended by Dr. McFarland and others to avoid drinking soda but for those who must drink soda, she has a few tips:
- Only drink sodas with meals
- Don’t drink soda through the entire day.
- Brush your teeth after drinking soda because toothpaste will strengthen areas weakened by the acid.
- At least rinse your mouth with water if you cannot brush.
- Chew sugar free gum or gum with Xylitol.
Last but not least, don’t forget to regularly visit your dentist so they can keep your teeth healthy and give you any personalized tips for your tooth care.