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Diet soda just as bad for your teeth as meth and crack cocaine, study suggests

Norman Byrd's picture

The damage that crack cocaine and meth do to an individual's teeth is nearly legendary. A new study suggests that drinking diet and regular soda can be just as devastating to one's dental array.

According to a study conducted by a professor of restorative dentistry at the Temple University School of Dentistry in Philadelphia, the effects of soda on an individual's teeth can be just as corrosive as that of habitual crack cocaine and methamphetamine users.

"You look at it side-to-side with 'meth mouth' or 'coke mouth,' it is startling to see the intensity and extent of damage more or less the same," says Temple's Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, according to US News and World Report. He wrote in the study that meth, crack, and soda -- both the regular and diet varieties -- can cause similar damage to teeth.

Bassiouny noted that soda, like the illicit drugs, is highly acidic and that the acid takes the forms of citric acid and phosphoric acid. Constant exposure to the acids without good dental hygiene could allow for extensive erosion of the teeth, he added.

Bassiouny conducted a longevity study of three subjects: a 30-something-year-old woman who drank two liters of soda per day, a 29-year-old methamphetamine addict, and a 51-year-old crack cocaine habitual abuser. The tooth decay of the woman after a three-to-five-year period was similar to that of the two drug users.

The woman tended to drink leaning to her left. The doctor found that the erosion was noticeably worse on the left side of her mouth. However, none of her teeth were salvageable. She also admitted to not seeing a dentist for two decades.

The crack user said he'd been using for 18 years. The meth addict admitted to three years of use.

The study immediately came under fire from the soft drink industry. The American Beverage Association, representing soft drink manufacturers, stated that the study was not an "indictment" of soda, noting that the woman in the study was not indicative of most people, soda drinkers that don't go two-thirds of their lives without seeking some form of dental service. "To single out diet soda consumption as the unique factor in her tooth decay and erosion -- and to compare it to that from illicit drug use -- is irresponsible."

The group added: "The body of available science does not support that beverages are a unique factor in causing tooth decay or erosion. However, we do know that brushing and flossing our teeth, along with making regular visits to the dentist, play a very important role in preventing them."

Bassiouny agreed that the best way to prevent tooth decay was by keeping to a regimen of dental hygiene. How much one drank and how long one held the soda in the mouth also are considered factors exacerbating decay, so limiting both factors would reduce risks of erosion. Following the drink with something like water also would aid in cleansing the mouth of the acid from the soda.

The soda and sugary drinks industries have been taking massive hits to their reputations with the release of several studies within the past few months.

In March: Research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions suggested that not only did drinking beverages with high sugar content -- sodas, sports drinks, and fruit drinks -- increase an individual's potential for gaining weight, but the gain of weight also could lead to diseases such as diabetes, several cancers, and cardiovascular diseases that result in death. The study estimated that 180,000 people died each year due to consumption of sugary soft drinks.

(Read: Killing you softly: Study says sugary soft drinks kill 180,000 people worldwide yearly)

In May: A study released from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass., suggested that decreasing one's intake of sugary soft drinks to one or less per week could decrease an individual's risk of developing kidney stones by as much as 23 percent.

(Read: Reduce your kidney stone risk by 23 percent by doing this)

(photo credit: Marlith, Creative Commons)

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