No doubt you’ve seen them – those before-and-after photographs of people addicted to methamphetamines or crack cocaine. Harrowing pictorial transitions from fresh-faced, smiling men and women to near ghosts of their former selves with hollowed facial features and rotted teeth are meant to help warn viewers of the damage drugs can do a body. Bet you didn’t know that drugs aren’t the only culprits. In fact, one primary cause of rotted teeth is your favorite diet soda, say Dr. Scott D. Schumann and his team of dental hygienists at Ohio’s Grove City Dental.
The trouble with diet soda is that it’s highly acidic, and acid is what dissolves tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to cavities and other problems. Acidic content (aka pH) is measured on a scale of 0 (most acidic) to 14 (least). Noting that, consider that diet soda measures a 3.2 on the acidity scale, closer to battery acid (1) than to water (7), and similar to that of methamphetamine and crack cocaine. Also the sugar content in soda is notoriously high – even in diet sodas.
To help drive home the dangers of diet soda to your oral health, the journal General Dentistry published results of a three-month study comparing the teeth of a diet soda drinker and two habitual drug users. The study subjects included a woman in her thirties who had downed two liters of diet soda daily for more than three years; a 29-year-old methamphetamine addict; and a 51-year-old crack cocaine addict. All three came from similar socioeconomic backgrounds and lived in urban areas that provided fluoridated public water.
Results showed that all three participants experienced similar dental health issues including cavities, tooth decay and missing teeth.
“You look at it side-to-side with ‘meth mouth’ or ‘coke mouth,’ it is startling to see the intensity and extent of damage more or less the same,” said study author Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a professor of restorative dentistry at Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry, in media interviews.
Of course, two liters of diet soda is far from the norm. Results of a Gallup Poll revealed that roughly 48 percent of Americans drink 2.6 glasses of soda or diet soda a day on average. Still, if you’re not brushing your teeth right away after each indulgence of a diet soda, that acid and sugar are sitting on your teeth’s surface, gradually eating away at the enamel. That’s why dentists urge patients to skip sodas altogether, or at least brush or rinse your teeth with water afterward.