Remember when you were a kid, and soda was saved for special occasions – birthday parties, Fourth of July, trips to the beach, and the like? Chances are, your mother told you soda was bad for you, and like it or not, you had to listen. But after you became an adult, it became harder to hear your mother’s voice in the back of your head. When you have a long day at the office, and you need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, you reach for a soda.
When you’re stuck in traffic on a hot day, you stop at the gas station for a soda. Watching the kids at the pool? You’re drinking a soda. But recent research about the effects of soda on your teeth may make it easier to hear mom’s words of wisdom in your mind.
According to a recent study published in General Dentistry, diet soda can have as bad an effect on teeth as cocaine or methamphetamine. The study was conducted by Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a professor of dentistry at Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry. Bassiouny conducted a long-term observation of three people – a methamphetamine user, a habitual cocaine user, and a woman who drank two liters of diet soda every day. The three lived in areas with flouridated water and had similar economic backgrounds. The study found that the three subjects had remarkably similar levels of tooth decay due to the severe erosion of the enamel caused by the different substances.
In an interview, Bassiouny said that the study’s findings were in line with his years of experience as a dentist, and in a rather charged statement said, “I was trying to make a parallel between drug abusers — and the usual neglect for themselves — and put this with the same traits of someone who drinks diet soda.”
While Bassiouny’s study is eye-opening, the idea that soda is bad for your teeth is nothing new. A 2011 blog entry by Thomas P. Connelly for the Huffington Post reported that the extremely high acidity level in diet soda contributes to severe tooth decay. On a pH scale, 1 is the most acidic and 10 is the least acidic. Connelly said that water has a pH of 7 while battery acid has a pH level of 1. Soda, with its acidity level of 2.3 to 2.5, is far closer to battery acid than to water. Connelly says, “I know I sound like a stern librarian, but I have to be honest — that stuff [diet soda] is the worst stuff you can drink.”
Maybe you’re convinced. But like crack cocaine or methamphetamine, daily consumption of diet soda is an addiction and it can be a hard one to break. Fortunately, CNN recently released a list of five ways to kick your diet soda habit.
- Drink more water. Water is quite simply the healthiest thing you can drink – for your teeth and for your whole body. Not only does water keep your body running smoothly, it can also fill you up and give you energy without the crash that often follows after drinking a soda. If you’re craving carbonation or flavor, try sparkling water or a splash of lemon or lime.
- Try other caffeinated beverages. Sometimes you’ve just got to have the pick-me-up. But you can get it in ways that are better for your dental hygiene and your health as a whole. Green tea is probably the best alternative since it has caffeine, as well as a high level of antioxidants.
- Don’t keep it around. The simplest thing is just to not buy it when you go grocery shopping. But if your main source of temptation is the soda machine at work, lobby to have healthier options put in the vending machines or break room or take a different route to avoid walking past the vending machine. You can also bring a stash of your own, healthier beverages to keep at your desk.
- Ask friends and family for support. Like alcohol, you may drink sodas in social settings. Ask friends to keep you honest with yourself and resist the urge to pick up a cola.
- Keep busy. Just like alcohol or cigarettes, people often drink sodas out of boredom. If you’re bored at work, give yourself a quick break by checking your favorite website. If you’re stuck in mind numbing traffic, listen to a favorite podcast, chew some gum, or have a healthy snack.
Though diet soda is legal and certainly not as lethal as methamphetamine or cocaine, it is addictive, and its effects on your dental hygiene are sobering. By following these five tips, you could end your addiction and save your smile. It’s a hard goal, but it’s doable. And if you need some extra motivation, just listen to your mother’s voice in the back of your head.
About the Author:
Dr. Serge Kupetz, D.D.S. has practiced full-time in New York, NY for more than 10 years. With an emphasis in implantology, cosmetic, and laser-related dentistry, he is highly accomplished in the latest techniques for crafting a perfect smile for his patients. A member of the American Dental Association (ADA) and the New York State Dental Association (NYSDA), Dr. Kupetz earned his B.A. and D.D.S from the prestigious New York University College of Dentistry.