Regional break down of who says what and where

When referring to a soft drink, is it soda, pop, or coke? I never realized there was such a debate over these terms until I moved to the southwest. This region of our country simply refers to any soft drink as “coke”. I’m sure that Pepsi isn’t too happy about this, but whatever you call it, it all has the same effect on your teeth!

Soft drinks have two ingredients that a fundamentally harmful to your teeth: Acid and Sugar

Acid? really? doesn’t taste acidic…
Acid is fundamental to carbonation. When carbon dioxide is under pressure in the can it creates carbonation or “bubbles. When you pop the can open, the pressure is released (that satisfying sound), and the bubbles start effervescing. At this point the drink becomes acidic because what is left in the can after it starts bubbling is carbonic acid, flavoring, and water.

Why is acid bad on your teeth?
Simple: your teeth are made of minerals like calcium. When you expose your teeth to acids, the minerals come out of your teeth and weaken them leading to small holes or “cavities”.

So all I need to care about is acid? I can eat all the sugar I want?
Not so fast partner! Sugars are bad too, but for a different reason. Everybody has bacteria in their mouth. Bacteria eat sugars and like all living things they have to go to the bathroom when they are done eating. When the bad bacteria (Strep Mutans) have to go… acid comes out! So sugars in your mouth ultimately lead to acids, which lead to weakened teeth, which lead to cavities. Make sense?

Well good thing I only drink diet soda, but how come I still have cavities?
No loopholes my friends, soda is soda! (or rather acid is acid!) It is bubbly because of carbonation, which ultimately means carbonic ACID. Being “without sugar” is slightly better for your teeth but if you are drinking soft drinks in an “all-day sipping” style, you are causing your teeth damage in continuous little bursts.  Each attack of the acid lasts about 20 minutes and starts over with every sip of soda you take. So, unless you are following up each coke sip with a water sip or have the most drool of anyone on the planet, the frequent sipping of coke/pop/soda is damaging your teeth in a way that will probably need fillings some day.

But I love my soda, so what can I do?
Moderation! Here are the do’s and don’ts for all you soda/pop/coke drinkers:

DO drink them with MEALS! Or drink them fast!
DO limit your consumption of soft drinks to no more than one 12oz can per day.
DO swish your mouth out after drinking to dilute the acid and sugar if brushing is not possible.
DO drink plenty of water. The sugar and caffeine in soft drinks can speed up dehydration so stay hydrated with the recommended 8 glasses of water a day

DON’T sip soda for extended periods of time. (Example: love that big gulp? sip ONE 168 ounce drink of Mountain Dew all day? Well, it’s the frequency of sipping that’s the dental decay issue. If you want 168 ounces of Mountain Dew that’s no problem, as long as long as you drink it during a meal or in less than 10 minutes. Your waistband may not agree with all the liquid calories, but that’s a different blog article!)
DON’T drink soda after dinner or after 7 pm! Bad habit!
DON’T substitute soft drinks, sports drinks or fruit juice for meals.

By limiting your intake of carbonated, acidic or sugary beverages, brushing and flossing twice a day, and visiting your dentist regularly, you will reduce your risk for tooth decay and improve and/or maintain your overall oral health.

Here is a small table of drinks and their pH or acidity level.  Anything lower than 7 is acidic.  A 6 acidity is 10 times more acidic than a 7. That makes a 3 acidity 10,000 times more acidic than a 7! Seriously! Even DIET COLA is a 3.4!

pH of drinks

So next time you’re at a summer barbecue or relaxing by the pool, make the right choice for you and your teeth and try and cut back on those sugar sweetened beverages.

If you want more information on the effects different foods or drinks have on your teeth or you are searching for a dentist in the triangle area, give DurhamDDS a call! We offer a generous helping of dental services for patients of all ages. To set up an appointment call our office at 919-286-0779 or visit for more information.