Study identifies soft drinks as major factor in tooth decay and erosion

A study out by the JMouth care Zhejiang University in May of 2009 documented a case where a young man developed severe tooth decay after several years of consuming a large volume of soda on a daily basis. The authors of the study look at the patient’s medical history, probable causes of the decay and erosion, and some ways to protect our teeth from enamel loss.

Patient data

The patient, a 25 year old bank worker, was a habitual soda drinker, consuming at least one 1.5 L cola every day for some three-and-a-half years. Further inquiries revealed that he brushed just once a day, and rarely saw the dentist. In terms of general health, he denied having an unusual diet, and his health and family history were found to be normal.

Over that period of three plus years, the patient had developed “severe worn-out…front teeth” that were marked with legions in various stages of growth. Other teeth were found to be in a state of decay, with cavities along the incisors and canines. Incredibly enough, the patient “did not report pain or sensitivity associated with any of the affected teeth.”

The cause of the damage

High sugar intake from the soda is the likely cause of this particular patient’s caries (tooth decay), which were highly developed by the time he walked into the dentist. While the caries were considered part of a bacterial infection (due to constant sugar intake over a three year period), the erosion developed from another source, namely the acidic properties found in the soda he was drinking. Erosion does not occur because of bacteria, but from the slow wearing away of the protective enamel surrounding the teeth.

“Compared with the caries”, say the writers of the study, “dental erosion seems to have much stronger relationship with soft drinks. The erosive potential of drinks is mainly represented by their pH and the buffering capacity.”

The patient also mentioned that he drank some fruit juices, which are known to be highly acidic. “Carbonated drinks,” say the authors, “had lower pH than fruit juices. The buffering capacities are in the following order: fruit juices>fruit-based carbonated drinks>non-fruit-based carbonated drinks.”

The study’s authors also mentioned that brushing is important for maintaining healthy teeth, but one should never do so just after drinking something acidic like a soda. This is because the enamel on your teeth is already depleted after consuming it, and brushing too early after such drinks can wear it away even more. The authors recommended a waiting period of at least 30 minutes before brushing after drinking a soda.

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