Soft drink addiction and your teeth

Soft drink addiction and your teeth

During steaming summer days, nothing brings relief quite like popping open a can of your favourite soft drink and taking that first ice-cold sip and holding the sweet elixir in your mouth for a few seconds. 

Bliss and satiation spring to mind as thirst and heat are quenched by the sweet, soft drink flowing through your body – nice and cool. 

This summer is time to break the ties with that particular sweet addiction because scientists have found that there is nothing soft about soft drinks.

Those seemingly innocuous words in the list of ingredients in your drink spell doom – brown sugar, cane crystals/sugar, corn sweetener, dextrin, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses and all that end in the letter “ose” such as fructose, lactose, sucrose, maltose and dextrose.

Soft drink equals sugar

Globally, soft drinks are a regular part of people’s diets, especially young adults and children. The consequence of this is that the dentists are reporting more significant amounts of tooth decay in young people. 

In the USA alone, obesity in all age groups has reached epidemic proportions. A 2019 report released by the Massachusetts Dental Society indicates that sugar in soft drinks could be anything between 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can and 16 teaspoons in a slightly larger drink. This exceeds the recommended daily amount of 6 teaspoons of sugar for children aged 2 to 18 years from 65% to 230% more added sugar to the diet. 

The report indicates that soft drinks play a major role in tooth decay and even with regular brushing and flossing, regular and diet sodas break down teeth enamel. 

In just 20 minutes after downing a soda, acid attacks teeth enamel leading to decay and cavities. The acid forms when the bacteria that live between and around teeth are exposed to the sugar from the drink. 

The acid generated by sugar-filled drinks is not just limited to soda drinks but to the sports drinks and fruit juices that all contain a high concentration of sugar too. Sugar-free beverages also contain high amounts of acid.

The report warned against sipping on a drink throughout the day as this leads to prolonged exposure to high concentrations of sugar and acid without a break. The pH level reportedly drops dramatically, and the risk of getting cavities increases, as children are unlikely to get a chance to brush their teeth during school hours.

Case study 

A 2009 case study conducted in China by dental researchers Ran Cheng, Hui Yang, Mei-Ying Shao, Tau Hu and Xue-don Zhou found that a 25-year-old bank worker whose upper teeth had decayed rapidly had spent seven years consuming copious amounts of soft drinks. During the last three years of that time-frame, he drank 1.5 litres of cola every day, as well as fruit juices such as grape and citrus fruit.  

Soft drinks like cola have the greatest source of acids leading to dental erosion and caries. The researchers noted that their pH and the buffering capacity mainly represent the “erosive potential of drinks”.

 Researchers found that carbonated drinks have a lower pH than fruit juices. The buffering capacities, they said, are in the following order: fruit juices, fruit-based carbonated drinks and non-fruit-based carbonated drinks. 

The lower pH carbonated drinks could reduce the surface hardness of enamel, dentine, micro-filled composite and resin-modified glass ionomer. In contrast, sports drinks and juices only affected teeth enamel. The researchers noted that sports drinks have a greater softening effect on the teeth than fruit juices.


While the Massachusetts Dental Society suggests drinking just water and milk, the researchers in China recommend that to reduce the risk of dental caries, low-calorie and sugar-free food should be eaten but to avoid sugar-free soft drinks which are also highly acidic and erosive. They stressed that people should be educated and warned about drinking soft drinks.

They reported that taking supplements that include calcium supplements could reduce the progress of enamel “demineralisation”. Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride or “remineralising toothpaste” could also help but advise that brushing the teeth one hour after consuming acidic food should be avoided.

Get the professionals involved 

Affinity Dental, there are three tiers of dental insurance available at different price points. Each of these options covers individual specialist work to various degrees. 

Adults and children need to visit the dentist at least twice a year, and these dental maintenance appointments can start to add up. Dental insurance will cover you for any additional treatments such as crowns, root canals or fillings, whether they are done at the dentist, or specialist practice.  

Usually, a dentist will refer you to a specialist, if needed. 

If you need to find an Affinity Dental approved dentist in your area, click here. 

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