I haven’t had a full-sugar soda in several years, but I still enjoy a few diet sodas a week. And, I've occasionally heard, off-handedly, that diet sodas can cause tooth decay just as their full-sugar cousins can. For what it’s worth, I switched to diet soda for the caloric savings, not specifically for the dental advantages (I almost typed “dental benefits” there, but that would have had an entirely different connotation than I intended.) However, as I like to have healthy teeth, I didn’t really want to drink beverages that might work against that (assuming that the notion was true).
A couple months back, I applied my Google-fu and though to get to the bottom of this. As it turns out, it was harder than I thought since some dental professionals said that diet soda doesn’t cause tooth decay while other dental folks said that diet soda does cause tooth decay. Yeesh. At the time, I just gave up on the question and made a mental note to revisit the issue later.
Well, I tried Googling again today and I came across a more definitive answer. One resource that looked promising was a pamphlet sent to parents from the Ohio Dental Association:
While excessive sugar is not healthy, it’s the acid in diet and regular soda that can damage tooth enamel and cause cavities and tooth decay. Acid can begin to harm tooth enamel in only 20 minutes.
That just about concluded my search, though I checked Google once more to see if I could find a national (or international) source in addition to this state-wide source. And, I came across this message from the Academy of General Dentistry about diet soda:
Drinking carbonated soft drinks regularly can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel surfaces, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.
Because saliva helps neutralize acids and wash your teeth clean, the worst time to drink soda pop, ironically, is when you are very thirsty or dehydrated due to low levels of saliva. “The larger the volume of intake, the more impact soda pop has on your teeth,” says Gordon Isbell, III, DDS, MAGD, a spokesdentist for the Academy of General Dentistry. “Diet sodas are part of the problem. Women especially like to drink them throughout the day and between meals because they have no calories, yet the higher frequency and volume is putting their teeth at risk.” […]
You hadn’t heard of the “Academy of General Dentistry”? Well, neither had I — but they’re apparently “a non-profit organization of more than 37,000 general dentists”. I suppose that puts the question to rest, then; now I just need to figure out what I can drink instead of diet soda. (I probably won’t cut it out completely, but perhaps my teeth will thank me for drinking less of it.)PS Is anyone else appalled — and, at the same time, amused — by the Academy’s unnecessary coinage of the term “spokesdentist”? ;)