Effects of Soda, Sports Drinks and Juice Cleanses

Soda Permanently Erodes, Yellows and Blackens Teeth and Much More …

Photo of a tooth immersed in an orange soda beverage

If you haven’t read it yet, there is a new study out from the Academy of General Dentistry that will be startling to anyone who loves their daily soda fix.  This study claims that the effects of soda on teeth are as detrimental as methamphetamine or crack cocaine.  When we learned that a can of Coca Cola contains the equivalent of 10 cubes of sugar we only got half of the picture.  Now we are learning that sugar is only the first problem.  The erosive acids found in soda, which are similar to components in meth and crack, are a big problem number two.  Below are excerpts from the article:

The case study looked at the damage in three people’s mouths.  One subject was a 29-year-old admitted meth user, and the other person was a 51-year-old who abused cocaine for 18 years.  The third patient drank an excessive amount of diet soda, about two liters a day for three to five years.  All three had poor oral hygiene and did not visit the dentist on a regular basis. Despite the different substance habits, the subjects appeared to have the same types and severity of tooth erosion.

Photo of energy drinks and a can of cocaine cola in a vending machine

Think Before You Drink!

“Each person experienced severe tooth erosion caused by the high acid levels present in their ‘drug’ of choice — meth, crack, or soda,” lead report author Dr. Mohamed A. Bassiouny, a dentist in Oreland, Pennsylvania, said in a press release.


Chart showing popular beverages and their acidity levels

What is Your Drug of Choice?

Tooth erosion occurs when acid wears away tooth enamel, which is the glossy, protective outside layer of the tooth. Without the protection of enamel, teeth are more susceptible to developing cavities, as well as becoming sensitive, cracked, and discolored.  The General Dentistry case study compared the damage in three individuals’ mouths—an admitted user of methamphetamine, a previous longtime user of cocaine, and an excessive diet soda drinker.  Each participant admitted to having poor oral hygiene and not visiting a dentist on a regular basis.  Researchers found the same type and severity of damage from tooth erosion in each participant’s mouth.  “Each person experienced severe tooth erosion caused by the high acid levels present in their ‘drug’ of choice—meth, crack, or soda,” says Mohamed A. Bassiouny, DMD, MSc, PhD, lead author of the study.  “The citric acid present in both regular and diet soda is known to have a high potential for causing tooth erosion,” says Dr. Bassiouny. 1

Energy Drinks & Sports Drinks vs. Sodas

So many people have shifted from regular sodas to diet sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks or other “sugar-free” beverages in an effort to be healthier.  But it seems that these “non-sugary” drinks are equally as detrimental, if not more so.  The acids (citric and phosphoric) used in these drinks to enhance flavor have a catastrophic effect on oral health.  These additives are ruinous to our white teeth, constantly and irreversibly eating away their protective enamel.  The Academy of General Dentistry published another study in 2012 showing that the erosive potential of colas is 10 times that of fruit juice in just the first three minutes of drinking.2  Studies show that pre-teen and teenage boys drink an average of 108 gallons of sweetened beverages each year.  These gallons are equal to thousands of sugar packets.  Energy and sports drinks have an even higher sugar content than soda.  The levels of acid in sodas, energy and sports drinks are seriously detrimental to tooth enamel.

Chart showing popular drinks and their sugar cube stack equivalent
Sodas and diet sodas contain sweeteners such as sucrose, fructose, Sorbitol and saccharine.  These sweeteners serve as a food source for plaque bacteria. These bacteria multiply quickly and produce lactic acid as they consume the sugars on your teeth.  The lactic acid then wears away your enamel.  The carbonation in soda comes from carbon dioxide. A byproduct of this combination is carbonic acid, which also contributes to the erosion of tooth enamel.3 Citric and phosphoric acids (flavor enhancers and preservatives) in soda severely damage teeth.  Phosphoric acid is used in dental bonding to create thousands of pores in the enamel in only 10 seconds.

pH, Acid, Juice Cleanses and “Healthy” Weight Loss Fads


Chart rating the acidic levels of sodas, sports and energy drinks

Titratable Acidity = Acid Strength

There are two methods for measuring the acid content in beverages, initial acidity (pH) and the titratable acidity (TA).  PH measures acid strength, and TA measures the amount of acid present.  The greater the TA, the longer time it takes for saliva to restore the mouth to a neutral pH.  A neutral pH keeps acid from attacking and damaging tooth structure.  Carbonated cola beverages, sports and energy drinks have a low pH and a high TA.4

One interested parent did a science experiment on his son’s tooth to see what effects soda has on teeth.  The pictures are incredible and will make you a believer.  Click here to read about the devastating results.

The latest fad in dieting of juice or fruit cleanses actually began in the 1970s.  Water additives such as flavor packets or appetite-suppressing powders have recently been very popular.  These cleanses and additives have a very high acid content.  They lead to increased staining, tooth hypersensitivity, tooth surface loss, exposure of dentin, reduced enamel translucency an overall lower pH in the mouth, demineralization and cavities.5  These dangerous additives cause a loss of tooth structure in addition to cavities.  Loss of tooth structure at the gum line is exceptionally frequent, as that is where the acid settles with perpetual exposure to acid.  In many cases bonding is necessary to rebuild the tooth structure where it has eroded.  In worse cases, an entire new crown is necessary.  When the acid has done total and irreversible damage, the teeth must be extracted.

The extremely high acid content in citrus diet cleanses is horribly damaging especially when repeated often.  Flavored or carbonated water carry the same consequences.  It may seem harmless to add just a drop of an additive to your water, but the damage is real and constant, especially when you sip a drink throughout the day.  Kids who think they are helping their sports regimen by adding an energy or sports drink will find they are doing more damage than good.

Heart Damage, Brain Cell Damage and Lesions, Oh My!

In recent studies, regular-soda drinkers experienced dramatic increases in harmful hidden fats, including liver fat and skeletal fat.  The regular-soda group also experienced an 11 percent increase in cholesterol compared to the other groups.  Artificial sweeteners and food dyes in diet soda have been linked to brain cell damage and hyperactivity.  Research shows that diet soda drinkers have a higher risk of developing diabetes.6

Some popular soda brands, including Mountain Dew, include brominated vegetable oil—a toxic flame retardant. This hazardous ingredient (sometimes listed as BVO on soda and sports drinks) can cause bromide poisoning symptoms like skin lesions and memory loss, as well as nerve disorders.  Many soda brands are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, a heart-harming man-made compound derived mainly from genetically engineered corn.7

That means we drink flavored water, Diet Coke, Red Bull, Gatorade, etc., at our peril.  Our teeth are at risk of losing their pearlescent, white, glowing look. Thinner enamel begins to make teeth look yellowed, thinner, duller.  Between sugar, acid, additives, damage to the body and the addictive nature of soda, energy drinks and sports drinks, it is time to recognize that we are doing our bodies a disservice when we “Do the Dew.”

Photo of water being poured from a clear glass pitcher into a drinking glass

The Healthiest Option: Water

It’s time to pass the water please!

1 – Lauren Henderson, Academy of General Dentistry, [email protected] CHICAGO (May 28, 2013)
2 – Dentistry.net/dental-nutrition/soda-on-teeth/
3 – Soda’s Effects on Tooth Erosion by Matthew Lee, Demand Media
4 – Springs Oral Health, Dr Matthew Burton Website: http://www.springsoralhealth.com/
5 – “Damaging Diets,” AGD Impact, January 2014, Vol. 42, No. 1, pg. 21-25.
6, 7 – “3 Surprising Reasons to Give Up Soda,” By David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, Jan 24, 2012