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Root beer may be ‘safest’ soft drink for teeth

If you regularly consume soft drinks, here's something to keep in mind.

Exposing teeth to soft drinks, even for a short period of time, causes dental erosion, which over time can lead to significant enamel loss.

If you're looking for a soft drink that's a bit less damaging, seek out root beer products. Root beer is non-carbonated and according to a recent report in General Dentistry, does not contain the acids that harm teeth.

Many people opt for "diet" drinks in an effort to curtail tooth damage caused by sugars in soda, but diet drinks contain phosphoric acid and/or citric acid and still cause dental erosion—though considerably less than their sugared counterparts.

Dental erosion is characterized by the loss of tooth enamel and at times deeper parts of the tooth. Erosion results in a scooped out, smooth depression on the tooth's surface. In many cases, tooth erosion causes sensitivity to hot and cold substances or painful sensitivity if the enamel is worn to such a degree that the dentin is exposed. Beneath the enamel, dentin protects the pulp—the innermost part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels.

"Drinking any type of soft drink poses risk to the health of your teeth," said Dr. Kenton Ross of the Academy of General Dentistry.

Dr. Ross recommends that patients consume fewer soft drinks by limiting their intake to meals. He also advises patients to drink with a straw, which reduces soda's contact with teeth.

"My patients are shocked to hear that many of the soft drinks they consume contain 9 to 12 teaspoons of sugar and have an acidity that approaches the level of battery acid," said Dr. Ross. For example, one type of cola ranked 2.39 on the acid scale compared to battery acid, which is 1.0.

Researchers in the AGD study concluded that non-colas cause a greater amount of erosion than colas. Citric acid is the predominant acid in non-cola drinks and is a major factor in why non-cola drinks are especially erosive. There is a significant difference between sugared and diet colas.

"The bottom line," Dr. Ross continues, "is that the acidity in all soft drinks is enough to damage your teeth and should be avoided."

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

6/18/2007

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