The Cosmetic Hazard of Drinking Diet Coke

If it was shown that consumption of an ordinary, grocery-store beverage could damage the teeth similar to that produced from methamphetamines or crack cocaine, would you drink it?  A recent study suggests that heavy consumption of diet soda can have precisely this effect.

The study leader, Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a professor of restorative dentistry from Temple University, said that the extent of damage from drinking diet soda is “more or less the same” when compared to damage to the teeth from methamphetamines or crack cocaine.

The damage stems from the high acidity found in all of these products.  Citric and phosphoric acid found in soda can cause erosion and substantial oral damage without proper dental hygiene.

During the course of the study Dr. Bassiouny examined a woman in her 30s who consumed two liters of diet soda per day over the course of three to five years.  He compared the condition of her teeth with that of a 29-year old male methamphetamine addict and an older male habitual crack cocaine user of 51 years of age.

The woman reported directly sipping soda from a can or bottle and admitted to holding it in her mouth prior to swallowing.  As a result of years of soda consumption and a lack of dental care, her teeth were soft, discolored, and many were destroyed from erosion.  Ultimately, all of her teeth were removed and replaced with dentures.

In addition to subjecting teeth to damaging acid, the drugs used by the two males reduced saliva which lowers the possibility for acids to wash away.  Additional systemic health problems caused by the drugs likely impacted dental hygiene. Methamphetamine and crack have been known to destroy the teeth of users, and the two men were no different.  All of their teeth required extraction.

A spokesperson representing soft drink manufacturers stated that this study should not be a blanket indictment against all diet sodas, specifically in lieu of the woman’s dental history. While it is true that the female subject had not been to the dentist in over 20 years, she reported habitually leaning on her left side against the sofa while watching television and drinking the soda. The significant amount of damage to the left side of her mouth suggests that the soda was indeed the key culprit.

The woman confessed that concerns about weight gain led her to opt for diet soda over regular soda, but she also believed that sweetened soda would put her at a higher risk for tooth decay.

Dr. Bassiouny cautioned that sugar-free soda is no better than regular soda when it comes to tooth decay.  Due to high amounts of acid, both versions destroy the teeth if they are regularly consumed in excessive amounts.

There are better practices for drinking soda in order to help prevent tooth decay.  In lieu of not drinking the beverage at all, amounts of soda, how often a person drinks it, and how long it is kept in the mouth can all be lessened.  Brushing, flossing and regular trips to the dentist are also important.

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