The heavy consumption of diet soda can be as damaging to the teeth as the chronic abuse of methamphetamines or crack cocaine, a case study recently published in the journal General Dentistry claims.
The study compared the mouths of three adults: a woman in her early-thirties who drank 2 litres of diet soda every day for the past three to five years; A 29-year-old who had been addicted to methamphetamine for at least three years; and a 51-year-old who had previously abused crack cocaine for 18 years.
Lead author Mohamed Bassiouny of Philadelphia’s Temple University found that each patient experienced nearly identical, severe tooth erosion due the high levels of acid in each “drug.”
Tooth enamel is the hard, outside layer of the tooth that protects the bones and nerves inside our teeth. The citric acid in soda (sugar-sweetened or diet) erodes the enamel, causing it to become soft and more susceptible to cavities and discoloration. The corrosive acids found in illegal drugs have a similar effect on the tooth’s protective surface.
In each case, patients’ remaining teeth were destroyed beyond the point of saving and had to be removed. The soda-drinker now has dentures.
The American Beverage Association, which represents the soft drink industry, believes that likening carbonated beverages to illegal drugs is an unfair comparison.
“The woman referenced in this article did not receive dental health services for more than 20 years — two-thirds of her life,” a representative said in a statement to HealthDay. “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.”
In response, Bassiouny told us that the goal was to show that it was possible for three different substances — soda, meth, or crack — to produce similar types of damage to the teeth while he controlled for most other factors, including general dental hygiene habits.
All three adults showed a general neglect for their teeth. Additionally, they all came from similar socio-economic backgrounds and lived in urban communities with fluoridated public water, the study reports.
“I was trying to make a parallel between drug abusers — and the usual neglect for themselves — and put this with the same traits of someone who drinks diet soda,” Bassiouny said.
Bassiouny only reported on three cases for this study, but argues that there is loads of anecdotal evidence to support the finding.
In February, an Australian newspaper reported on a 25-year-old man who had to have all of his teeth removed because he drank too much soda.
During Bassiouny’s three years as a volunteer for several dental clinics, he said he has treated hundreds of soda-abusers who suffer from severe tooth erosion. Many patients were young — between the ages of eight and nine.
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