Advertising would have you think that a cola is a refreshing drink. And, we seem to buy it. It’s estimated that nearly half of all people in the U.S. drink soda every day and Americans consume 7.5 billion gallons each year.
But, should you be drinking it? As a dentist, I want you to know the repercussions to your smile before you pop the top.
Studies have shown that frequent intake, as few as five drinks per week, contributes to the onset of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hypertension. Metabolic syndrome includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Together, they increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Soft drinks have become a global concern. The United Nations has warned that non-communicable diseases pose a greater health risk than infectious diseases and that metabolic syndrome and diabetes cause 19 million deaths every year.
The American Health Association states that metabolic syndrome affects about 23 percent of adults – nearly one-fourth of our nation’s adult population. (https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/07/30/limit-low-calorie-sodas-and-drinks-and-stick-to-water-instead-researchers-advise)
A 20oz. can of cola contains extremely high levels of sugar – about 17 teaspoons. Even worse, many contain high fructose corn syrup. These sweeteners are made worse by being joined by corrosive phosphoric acid, caffeine, and coloring.
The phosphoric acid in cola makes it one of the most acidic beverages on the market. How high are these acid levels? Battery acid (that can eat through skin) has a 1 pH rating while a basic can of soda has a pH rating of 2.5.
The digestive system combats the acidity of cola by drawing on stored calcium phosphate. This can eventually take its toll by depleting minerals from the bones, placing soda drinkers at a higher risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. Because teeth are bones, the repercussions can also extend to your smile.
Particularly concerning, when it comes to the acid in soft drinks, is its ability to ramp up acid levels in the mouth. Each time you eat or drink (except for plain water), oral acids surge in as part of natural digestion. When the acids from colas, which are already high, mix with these oral acids, it is severe enough to actually soften tooth enamel.
The caramel coloring in colas is created when sugar reacts with sulfites and ammonia under high temperatures. Just as frequent consumption of red wine or coffee can lead to stained teeth, colas do as well. Even worse than discolored teeth are the byproducts from this process. They include compounds that are known carcinogens.
Most colas also contain caffeine, which is addictive. To your smile, caffeine is a drying agent to oral tissues. When these tissues are insufficiently moist, oral bacteria breed and multiply faster. This can lead to bad breath, cavities and gum disease.
The Center For Science In The Public Interest refers to these drinks as “liquid candy.” (https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/foods-avoid/sugary-drinks) They warn that “Soda consumption is associated with nearly twice the risk of cavities in children and increases their likelihood in adults.”
Soda consumption has become such a concern in the U.S. that the city of San Francisco passed a law requiring soda advertisements to include the warning: “Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”
However, it’s not just cola that is bad for teeth and gums. Any food or beverage that contains high levels of acid and/or sugar pose challenges to maintaining a cavity-free and disease-free mouth. Beverages such as coffee, tea, sweetened juices, citrus juice, wine, tomato juice, and most sports and energy drinks are on this list.
Foods that are highly acidic may come in surprising forms, including many salad dressings, catsup, tomato sauces, citrus fruits, and vinegars. Naturally, foods containing sugar or sweeteners (such as high fructose corn syrup) are also harmful.
Although the U.S. has some of the highest standards in dentistry of all nations and the most advanced technology in the field, our oral health is not in good condition. As research continues, this is due to the foods we eat and the beverages we drink.
While we can’t blame colas for all the costly repairs needed for cavities and gum disease, I believe it is beneficial to have a clear picture of the challenges as a result of their consumption.
Be committed to a thorough oral health regimen at home and your 6-month dental check-ups. If you have delayed regular care, call 219-987-5733 or tap here to schedule an initial examination. We’ll help you achieve a worry-free smile!