Soft Drinks and Your Teeth (Part I)
While soft drinks make a nice beverage, their effects on health are not as pleasant. Besides weight gain through the high calories from sugar intake, soft drinks also contribute to tooth decay.
Tooth decay arises from acids in the soft drink as well as acid byproducts. The most common acids present in soft drinks are citric, carbonic and phosphoric acids. Citric acid comes from citrus products and flavourings. Carbonic acid arises from dissolved carbon dioxide which is found in almost all soft drinks. Phosphoric acid is mostly present in colas; soft drink manufacturers add phosphoric acid to as part of the flavouring process and to retard the growth of bacteria and mould.
Sugar in soft drinks interacts with bacteria in the mouth to form acid byproducts. The acid inherent in the soft drink as well as the acid byproducts attack the teeth and this can lead to softening and weakening of the tooth enamel.
Ongoing and prolonged consumption of soft drinks contributes to the formation of cavities as the weakened tooth structure does not provide an effective defence against the growth of bacteria. Compared to other beverages such as fruit juices, ciders and wine, soft drinks are more effective in eroding the teeth.
Although saliva in the mouth is a natural mechanism to disrupt the growth of bacteria, soft drinks inhibit their effect as the acid coating created by soft drinks resists being washed away by saliva in the mouth.
Kids and children are most vulnerable for a variety of reasons. First, most kids have a sweet tooth and love to consume soft drinks. Second, most kids do not understand the role of soft drinks in tooth decay. Third, kids and children do not have a fully developed enamel and this increases the susceptibility of their teeth to decay.