The debate continues. Should you call that fizzy carbonated drink pop or soda? Whichever side you’re on, there’s one thing that’s not up for debate: Soda is not good for your health. It contains no essential nutrients — no vitamins, minerals or fiber — and regular soda is full of calories. Drinking sugary soft drinks has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, fatty liver disease and an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
What’s more, the sugar and acid in soda can do a double whammy on your smile.
How sugary sodas damage your teeth
Regular soda is packed with sugar. One 12-ounce can of soda usually exceeds the recommended daily maximum of sugar for adults and contains far more sugar than children should consume in one day. The bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars in soda, producing acid that attacks your teeth for about 20 minutes after each sip.
Sodas that contain caffeine can make you dehydrated, which may lead to cavity-causing dry mouth. Sugar also speeds up the process of dehydration.
Why diet sodas also pose risks
Drinking diet or sugar-free sodas doesn’t help you avoid all the problems caused by regular soda. While diet sodas and other sugar-free carbonated beverages don’t coat your teeth with sugar, they are usually highly acidic — as are most regular sodas. Acids are added to most soft drinks for flavor, to improve shelf-life and to help reduce growth of bacteria and fungi. Carbonation also adds to the acidity of soft drinks.
These acids can erode and reduce the hardness of the enamel that protects your teeth and lead to tooth decay. So even diet sodas and other sugar-free carbonated beverages can lead to cavities. Children’s teeth are especially vulnerable to acid erosion and tooth decay as they have thinner tooth enamel than adults.
Here’s how to limit the side effects of soda
- Choose other drinks such as water, unsweetened tea or plain milk
- Enjoy soda only in moderation
- If you do drink soda, consume it quickly so it has less time to do damage
- Limit soda to mealtime, when your mouth produces more saliva
- Brush your teeth 30 to 60 minutes after a soda
In addition to cutting back on or not drinking soda at all, you can help counter its side effects by continuing to maintain great oral hygiene. Brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss daily and see your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.
Tip: Not only does water have no sugar or calories, but you can make it flavorful by adding fruit, veggies or herbs like strawberries, cucumbers and mint to your drink.