Whether you call it soda, pop, or soda pop, the high acid content of this popular beverage will still irreversibly erode the enamel on your teeth. This is the most common problem associated with soda consumption. Enamel is the hard substance that protects the teeth and delicate roots underneath. It can be broken down by citric acid and other types of acid found in soda, along with acid by-products from bacterial sugar metabolism. This can eventually lead to cavities, tooth loss and gum disease. Caffeinated soda can also irritate ulcers in the stomach lining and exacerbate the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease by causing the stomach to secrete acid normally used to activate digestive proteins.
Acid and Teeth
Soda contains several types of acid, which may include citric, phosphoric, malic, carbonic, and tartaric acids. These produce an extremely damaging effect and can soften and demineralize enamel. Acids have a low pH, which makes them highly corrosive and detrimental to tooth structure. The higher the acid content of the soda, the faster erosion will occur. Frequent consumption of soda is directly related to rapid wearing away of enamel. This causes lesions to form on the tooth surface, leading to decay and loss.
Hundreds of bacteria species live in colonies called plaques and make their residence on the surface of your teeth. Some species cause tooth decay via carbohydrate metabolism. When bacteria break down carbohydrates, like the sugars in soda, a strong acid is produced that begins to break down enamel. This lowers the pH inside of the mouth and increases the probability of dental caries, also known as cavities. Sugary sodas coating the teeth create a welcome environment for sucrose-reliant streptococcus mutans, a type of bacteria found in most severe cavities. For some, the term diet is synonymous with “safe” or “acceptable,” but diet varieties of soda still pose a substantial hazard to enamel's structural integrity. Though diet sodas do not contain many fermentable carbohydrates, their acid content will add to loss of enamel.
Caffeinated Soda and Stomach Acid
Most foods are less acidic than the typical stomach pH of 1.0 to 3.0. The pH of the most popular sodas ranges from 2.4 to 3.5, and even citrus juices like orange and grapefruit have a pH between 3.2 and 3.6. While soda’s acidity alone is not likely to cause a peptic ulcer or significantly inhibit the healing process, its caffeine content stimulates stomach acid secretion, causing pain and discomfort for those who already have ulcers. Additionally, this excessive secretion can worsen the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD. This is a chronic condition in which the lower esophageal sphincter opens unexpectedly for sporadic periods of time and stomach acid makes its way into the esophagus, causing the burning feeling known as heartburn. The increase in gastric secretion will mean an increase in the acid flowing up into your esophagus, damaging its walls.
Fluoride rinses, prescription fluoride applications by a dentist and the use of fluoride toothpaste are very effective in the prevention of enamel loss and dental caries due to soda consumption; however, the most effective preventative measure is limiting soda intake to very little, if any. Those who consume a large amount of soda or who have enamel loss from past consumption are at high risk for decay and should brush with toothpastes that have 1.1 percent sodium fluoride for protection. Some dentists recommend sealants for the crowns of teeth to protect them from acid erosion, although soda can eat through the sealant and cause marked breakdown.
The best way to manage GERD through diet is to avoid foods that are gastric irritants. Caffeinated soda should not be consumed by those with GERD.
- Journal of Pediatrics: Dental Caries and Beverage Consumption in Young Children
- Proquest: The Dangers of Soda Pop
- National Institutes of Health: Tooth Decay
- National Institutes of Health: Microbiology of Dental Decay and Periodontal Disease
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Heartburn, GER and GERD
- Krause's Food and Nutrition Therapy: Sylvia Escott-Stump