Put away the diet soda – your teeth will thank you

Photo credit: Holly McCoach/The Beacon

Holly McCoach/Staff Writer

For those who want to improve their health, substituting a can of diet soda for the calorie-pumped version may not be the best idea.

Diet drinks lack regular soda’s calories and high-fructose corn syrup, but they’re full of acidic ingredients that can wear down the protective layer on your teeth. As a result, teeth are more susceptible to cavities and discoloration.

According to CBS News, diet soda has been known to have the same effects on teeth as methamphetamine. Heavy diet soda addicts were shown to have the same dental erosion as meth users. The study included a participant who consumed a daily amount of two liters of diet soda, a 29-year-old meth addict, and a 51-year-old crack cocaine addict. The heavily eroded teeth resulted from these acidic substances.

Marisa Ceccio, a senior biology major, reflects on why she no longer consumes soda in general.

“I have not had soda in about three and a half years. I’ve known that soda can disintegrate teeth since childhood. It’s a pretty well-known fact along with it being able to take rust off of metal, among other things. But one day in a bio class, I learned that once the soda gets into your stomach, it reacts with the acids and turns into formaldehyde; and for those of you who don’t know, that is the stuff they use to preserve dead bodies, the stuff they put the dead rats in so they don’t decay before they get to the lab to dissect. I have not touched the stuff since,” said Ceccio.

Even though regular soda and diet soda contain acidic substances, some people believe that drinking perhaps eight cans of diet soda is better than drinking three cans of regular soda. Do the math and consumers will realize that more acid is consumed when you drink more diet beverages than less of the fructose-filled alternative. For drinkers who treat diet soda as water, the effects of tooth decay may be more prominent than the occasional regular soda consumer.

“It’s the acid in diet soda more than anything. You want to reduce the quantities in that,” said Christine Tellez, registered dietician at the University’s Student Health Services.

In general, soda is not beneficial to anyone, but for people trying to quit, it is not as difficult as it may seem.

“Neither of them is good for your teeth,” said Tellez. “Ideally, you wouldn’t drink soda [regularly]; you would drink it on a special occasion. It’s going to be less harmful than if you’re drinking it every day. I would recommend gradually weaning off soda. Instead of soda, try to drink water and milk, or a milk substitute. If you are going to drink soda, or other acidic drinks like coffee or tea, try and brush your teeth afterward, or swash some water around to get rid of that acid. Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet is a way to ensure that your teeth remain healthy, as well as dairy products.”

For heavy diet soda drinkers, all is not lost. Healthy teeth can be regained through a solid diet of calcium, which can remineralize damaged teeth. Most habits cannot be kicked in a day, however. Sipping diet soda through a straw is recommended, so as to prevent the soda from contacting the teeth.

“Both the minerals calcium and phosphorus help rebuild enamel and protect your teeth,” said Tellez.

Calcium filled foods include dairy products, dairy substitutes and tofu. Foods rich in phosphorus are cheese, nuts, broccoli, turkey and chicken.


1 Comment on "Put away the diet soda – your teeth will thank you"

  1. Maureen Beach | June 27, 2013 at 10:25 AM | Reply

    The body of science demonstrates that beverages are not a unique factor in causing tooth decay or erosion. Furthermore, the woman at the center of this story did not receive dental health services for more than 20 years. Claiming that diet soda consumption was the unique factor behind her dental health – and to compare it to that from illicit drug use – is irresponsible.

    -Maureen Beach, American Beverage Association

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