In New York City, there is a currently a debate to legislate the size of a sugary beverages that can be sold in certain locations. The concern is that consumption of large amounts of sugary drinks leads to obesity which leads to poor health and the associated expenses. A representative from Coca-cola responded to the debate in an article in USA Today. In the article, Ms. Bayne suggests that a calorie is a calorie and that the consumption of sugary beverages in moderation have no ill effects on health.
She suggests the beverages that she might consume during the day. A mini diet coke, powerade zero, 2 regular diet cokes, gold peak tea, and maybe an 8 ounce coke. Her consumption of beverages for weight control is fine. She is only consuming one beverage that contains calories, and she is only consuming 8 ounces of that beverage. The effort in New York, is based on the fact that no one consumes 8 ounces of these beverages, its 4 to 8 times that amount.
But as a dentist that's not what I'm concerned about. Ms. Bayne will only consume 97 calories. I'm concerned about the effect that these beverages will have on her teeth. Teeth begin to soften and cavities form when exposed to acid. Acids are rated on a scale called pH. The lower the pH the stronger and more damaging the acid. Teeth soften when the pH is below 5.5.
Ms. Bayne's mini diet coke pH 3.39.
Followed by Powerade ph 2.75
Another diet coke pH 3.39
Another diet coke pH 3.39
A regular coke pH 2.63
Gold Peak Tea pH 4.8
That's 6 additional exposures to acid that can damage her teeth.
This photo at right demonstrates severe acid erosion of teeth.
I commonly see patients with lots of cavities. The common risk factor is almost always high intake of acidic drinks. I've even had them come to their dental appointments to fill their cavities with a 64 ounce drink that they set on the counter to finish later.
I don't want to get into the politics of whether we need our government to legislate our choices. But Coca-cola's suggestion that consuming sugary and acidic beverages have no ill-effects is untrue. A regimen like Ms. Bayne's that has only 97 calories, can be horrible for your teeth. So while the link between sugary drinks and the obesity epidemic may be up for debate, there is NO debate about the role sugary and acidic drinks have in the cavity epidemic.
Jonathan Campbell, DDS is a dentist in Salt Lake City. His office uses Previser, and CariFree to assess risk for cavities and develop personalized programs to prevent cavities.