2017-05-17 / Health

Diet soda habit as bad for teeth as meth addiction

By Dennis Thompson

Heavy consumption of diet soda can damage teeth as badly as methamphetamine or crack cocaine, a new study contends.

“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,” said Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a professor of restorative dentistry at the Temple University School of Dentistry in Philadelphia.

Methamphetamine, crack cocaine and soda -- sweetened or not -- are all highly acidic and can cause similar dental problems, Bassiouny said in a study published recently in the journal General Dentistry.

The acid in soda is in the form of citric acid and phosphoric acid, Bassiouny said. Without good dental hygiene, constant exposure can cause erosion and significant oral damage, he said.

In his study, he found that a woman in her 30s who drank 2 liters of diet soda daily for three to five years experienced tooth rot and decay remarkably similar to that suffered by a 29-yearold methamphetamine addict and a 51-year-old habitual crack cocaine user.

The younger man had used methamphetamine for three years, and often downed two or three cans of regular soda a day because the drugs made his mouth so dry. The older man reported an 18-year history of crack abuse.

The woman said concerns about weight gain led her to choose diet soda over regular, and admitted that she had not seen a dentist in many years, according to the study. She also associated sweetened beverages with a higher risk of tooth decay.

Her teeth were soft and discolored, with many destroyed by erosion. She usually sipped the beverage directly from a can or a bottle, and held the soda in her mouth before swallowing, Bassiouny said.

“She also mentioned that when doing so, she habitually leaned on her left side against the arm of the sofa while watching television,” he said. The “massive” damage to the left side of her mouth bore this out and resulted in what is called a collapsed bite.

“None of the teeth affected by erosion were salvageable,” Bassiouny said. The woman had to have all of her teeth removed and replaced with dentures.

Methamphetamine and crack are known to ravage the mouths of users, and the two drug abusers needed all of their teeth extracted.

Besides exposing teeth to damaging acid, these illegal drugs reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth, providing less opportunity for the acids to wash away. The drugs also cause systemic health problems that affect dental hygiene. Previous studies have linked “meth mouth” with rampant decay.

Damage from excessive soda consumption can cause “very deep brown stains, where it’s actually eroded into the tooth, and the teeth are soft and leathery,” he said.

Prevention is the best cure, Bassiouny said. How often you drink soda, how much you drink and how long it’s in your mouth all are important factors. “You can help prevent it from happening by reducing any of those,” he said.

Sugar-free soda is no better than regular soda when it comes to dental decay, Bassiouny added. “Both of them have the same drastic effect if they are consumed in the same frequency, the same amount and the same duration,” he said.

Antenucci said people need to keep in mind that they are drinking something that is highly acidic when they pick up a soda.

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