There are many things out there that erode teeth. There are plenty of lists of foods, but drinks are equally important when it comes to oral health.
Now we all know that sugary sodas are always first on the list of culprits. Recent studies, however, have found that diet sodas are also erosive. Not only sodas, but non-carbonated beverages and juices are also enamel destroyers. So what are the worst?
One study conducted at Southern Illinois University compared Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola, Squirt, Surge, 7-Up, and their complementary diet versions. Their method: soaking extracted teeth in the drinks and then measuring their weight loss a.k.a. enamel loss.
The results: teeth soaked in Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola, Squirt, Surge, 7-Up and Diet 7-Up lost more than 5 percent of their weight. The remaining sodas (their complementary diet versions, except Diet 7-Up) caused enamel losses ranging from 1.6 percent to 5 percent.
It’s important to note that Diet 7-Up eroded more than 5% of enamel. Though it lacks sugar, its carbonation and, crucially, its citric acid content ate away a lot of the enamel. Acidity indeed is very significant in levels of erosion. If you’ve forgotten high school chem, the pH scale runs from 0 to 14 with 0 being most acidic.
In this case, the most acidic soft drink was RC Cola with a pH of 2.387. Next was Cherry Coke’s pH at 2.522, followed by Coke at 2.525. The least damaging soda: diet root beer, which has no sugar, phosphoric, or citric acid.
Non-carbonated, non-soda (whatever you want to call them) aren’t as damaging as sugary sodas. That said, many standard juices and sports drinks can and do wreak havoc on teeth.
The biggest culprit here: Gatorade. In a study at the University of Iowa, extracted teeth were coated except for a patch on the enamel and a patch on the root. They then soaked them in various drinks for 25 hours. At the end, Gatorade proved more corrosive on enamel than Red Bull and Coke (yes regular Coke). Gatorade also proved more corrosive on the root than Red Bull, but not Coke this time.
Once again sugar content isn’t the only factor. Coke is 10% sugar, while Gatorade is 6%. However, Gatorade is more acidic, with citric acid being the 4th most plentiful ingredient in all flavors.
When it comes to juices, Seoul National University Hospital’s School of Dentistry conducted a study that found orange juice to be the most harmful out of lemonade, apple, and other acidic juices. In fact, orange juice reduced enamel by 69%.
Now, of course, we’re not saying that you should enact a complete prohibition on these drinks. Juices provide a lot of nutrients, when not from a concentrate. There are a couple of solutions: obviously, limit the amount that you drink of these beverages; use a straw to bypass the teeth; don’t sip on them for a prolonged amount of time; and always brush afterwards.