Diet Soda: No Sugar Doesn’t Mean No Cavities
Sugar: the ultimate evil. It causes weight gain. Tooth decay. Type 2 diabetes. If there is one thing dietary science has taught us over the decades, it’s if you want to stay healthy, you better stay away from sugar.
As a result, an entire market has been built around the notion that avoiding sugar will make you feel better, live longer, and have fewer cavities. There’s sugar free cookies. Sugar free chewing gum. Sugar free candy bars. And of course, sugar free diet soda.
Obviously, there is some validity to these claims about sugar. Sugar does turn into fat if you don’t burn it for energy. Excessive consumption of sugar absolutely contributes to type 2 diabetes. And as you have surely been taught since kindergarten, sugar causes tooth decay.
Problem comes when you think that avoiding sugar is all you have to do to stay healthy. Yes, sugar can be bad for you, but in moderation, it’s just fine. And there are plenty of other things out there that are just as bad as sugar.
For example, it is well known that sugar is a major contributor to tooth decay, but the key word there is “contributor”. Sugar doesn’t rot your teeth all by itself, and it is not the only thing that will rot your teeth. So if you are drinking diet sodas because you think they are better your teeth, you are in for a painful surprise when you find out what diet sodas do to your teeth, without the help of sugar.
Here at Clearwater Dental Associates, we are committed to providing the important information our patients in Clearwater, FL need to make informed decisions about what to eat and drink, and how to take care of their teeth and gums.
Tooth Decay Is Caused By Bacteria
Have you ever heard of the the bacteria called dental caries? Dental caries is the true cause of tooth decay. It is a bacteria that likes to hide out in our mouths, and most people pick up when they are very young. Older family members pass it to younger family members, usually by sharing forks and spoons.
Sugar is not totally off the hook here. Dental caries feed on sugar and then excretes acid. This acid is corrosive to the enamel on your teeth. Even though, tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the human body, the acid produced by dental caries eats it away, causing cavities. If these cavities aren’t treated right away, then they can grow into severe tooth decay. The acid will eat all the way though your enamel and into the soft tissue in the pulp. The pulp is contains tiny nerve endings and blood vessels, so if the decay makes it all the way there, you could be looking at a serious toothache.
When your pulp becomes infected with bacteria, a root canal is often required to save the tooth, unless it’s too late, then extraction is the only option.
Diet Soda Has No Sugar, But Plenty Of Acid
All sodas contain acid, even diet sodas. Phosphoric acid and citric acid are used to give sodas that extra bite you’ve come to expect from a carbonated beverage. Both of these acids occur naturally in a variety of foods, but just because they are natural does not mean they are safe for your teeth. Phosphoric acid, for example, aside from being used as a beverage flavoring, is also used to strip rust from metal.
Phosphoric acid also inhibits your body’s absorption of calcium. Calcium is used to remineralize your tooth enamel, so whereas your enamel would typically heal itself, the acid in diet soda stops it from doing so. And citric acid has a habit of showing up all over the place. It’s in a variety of fruit drinks and juices, so don’t think natural fruit juice will be any easier on your teeth than sodas will.
The truth is, the only thing safe to drink all the time is water. In fact, if you follow up a sugary soda with water, you can negate much the damage the sugar and acid would do to your teeth. Water washes away sugar and bacteria, as well as neutralizes acid. So water is the ultimate defense against tooth decay. One of the biggest problems with sodas, diet or otherwise, is that they are not water. If you are only drinking sodas every now and then as a treat, and still drink plenty of water throughout the day, then the damage to your teeth would likely be minimal.
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Do not hesitate to visit Clearwater Dental Associates for answers to all your questions about tooth decay and oral hygiene.
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