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Cavities and Soda Drinking in Teenagers

Cavities and soda drinking in teenagers is a growing problem. Research shows that drinking soda can lead to a number of dental health issues, and in teenagers, the steady consumption of soft drinks is a leading cause of tooth decay.

Soda drinking causes tooth decay

Most 12oz cans of soda contain as many as 40g or 10 teaspoons of sugar. The sugar found in sodas and soft drinks (a form of high-fructose corn syrup) combines with bacteria in the mouth to form acid. The acid then attacks the teeth and weakens the enamel. This causes tooth decay and the formation of cavities. The acid continues to attack the teeth for up to 20 minutes, and this process starts over with every sip of soda. It is important to realize that other carbonated beverages, teas, sports drinks and juices can have the same effect on the teeth as soda. While switching to diet or sugar-free drinks may seem like a healthier decision, dental research has found that diet sodas are still a major cause of dental cavities. Diet drinks lack sugar, but have a high acid content that causes damage to the enamel of the teeth.

Teenagers and soda drinking

Teens are most susceptible to cavities that result from drinking soda for a number of reasons. Teenagers drink more soda than any other age group. Soda consumption in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years, and this is especially true among teens. Research has shown that soft drink purchases by teens in schools has increased by 1,100 percent over the past 20 years. In contrast, the purchase of milk has decreased by 30 percent. Some teens may drink as many as 12 sodas per day, and larger serving sizes and easy access only contribute to the problem. The soft drink industry is a $60 billion industry producing over 15 billion gallons of soft drinks each year, and teens are the target of a “pick me” marketing battle.

Additionally, soda drinking is more likely to cause tooth decay in teenagers than in adults because the tooth enamel of a teenager is not yet fully developed. Unfortunately, these years when teeth are still developing can be a time where sodas and sugary drinks displace healthier choices like milk and nutrient rich foods that are essential for strengthening teeth. Premature loss of tooth enamel and weakening of the overall tooth structure are two significant effects of soda consumption that cannot be reversed later in life.

Preventing cavities caused by soda drinking

While frequent intake of soda can cause serious dental health issues in teenagers, moderate consumption of soda combined with good dental hygiene may represent no harm at all. There are steps that can be taken to lessen the negative effects of soda.

  • Limit soda intake and drink no more than one 12 oz can per day
  • Use a straw to keep the sugar away from the teeth
  • Rinse with water after drinking soda
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
  • Chew sugarless gum
  • Brush and floss regularly
  • Use fluoride toothpaste
  • Keep regular dental appointments and cleanings
  • Be aware of sugar content in drinks
  • Do not sip on soda for extended periods of time
  • Do not drink soda near bedtime
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