Study finds diet soda and illicit drug use similarly corrode teeth

June 4, 2013

According to a new study published in General Dentistry, a peer-reviewed clinical journal published by the Academy of General Dentistry, drinking large quantities of soda erodes teeth much in the same way as consuming illegal drugs does. 

According to a new study published in General Dentistry, a peer-reviewed clinical journal published by the Academy of General Dentistry, drinking large quantities of soda erodes teeth much in the same way as consuming illegal drugs does. 

This is very bad news given our country’s penchant for carbonated soft drinks: according to a 2012 Gallup poll, nearly 50% of Americans report drinking at least one glass of soda a day, while an additional 20% say they usually drink two or more.

The study examined the damage in three people’s mouths: a one-time habitual cocaine user, a habitual user of methamphetamine, and an excessive soda drinker.  Although the participants disclosed to poor oral hygiene and lack of regular dental care, researchers discovered quantitatively similar amounts of tooth erosion in each participant, both in terms of type and severity.

Teeth erode after acid deteriorates the enamel, the semi-translucent protective layer of the tooth.  Once it wears away, teeth become more susceptible to caries, cavities, cracking, and discoloration.  Both soda and the drugs used by the participants include corrosive materials.

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“Each person experienced severe tooth erosion caused by the high acid levels present in their ‘drug’ of choice-meth, crack, or soda,” said Mohamed A. Bassiouny, DMD, MSc, PhD, who lead the study. “The citric acid present in both regular and diet soda is known to have a high potential for causing tooth erosion. The striking similarities found in this study should be a wake-up call to consumers who think that soda-even diet soda-is not harmful to their oral health.”

In response to the study, a statement released by the American Beverage Association asserts:

"The woman referenced in this article did not receive dental health services for more than 20 years - two-thirds of her life. To single out diet soda consumption as the unique factor in her tooth decay and erosion - and to compare it to that from illicit drug use - is irresponsible.”

Nevertheless, AGD spokesman Eugene Antenucci notes that dentists should still recommend to their patients that they limit the amount of soda they drink, opting for water instead.