Fizzy drinks can affect teeth in 2 main ways: caries (cavities) and acid erosion (tooth wear).
Food for thought: A 350ml can of fizzy soft drink typically contains 40 grams of sugar. That’s a whopping 10 teaspoons of sugar! Would you take the same amount of sugar in a mug of tea or coffee?
This sugar load is fermented by bacteria in the mouth to produce lactic acid as a byproduct. Coupled with the phosphoric acid already present in fizzy drinks, this reduces the pH in the mouth which demineralises tooth enamel. Demineralisation is superficial dissolving of the surface enamel where minerals (mainly calcium) are removed from the hard tissues of the teeth. It is also the earliest stage of tooth decay.
In a normal setting, following a sugar load, saliva has a buffering effect and restores the pH close to neutral and remineralises the enamel.
However, repeated intake of fizzy drinks leads to a net acid pH in the mouth and net demineralization of tooth enamel. One of my patients proudly exclaimed that she drinks 2 liters of soft drinks a day!
Signs (something the dentist can see)
Early enamel lesions appear as a chalky white spot. Eroded, weakened enamel is now permeable to caries forming bacteria, which begin to eat away at the organic component of dentine leading to tooth decay.
As caries progresses into dentine, the colour changes to an area of yellow or light brown. Progressed lesions appear darker brown or grey in colour.
If allowed to continue to this stage (months), the caries begins to undermine the enamel and cavitates, hence cavity.
Symptoms (something the patient complains of)
Patients may notice sensitivity on biting or with hot, cold and sweet. The pain is short-lived from a few seconds-minutes (reversible). Larger lesions can be spontaneously painful and the pain can last a few hours (irreversible). Patients may complain of a throbbing pain which is not relieved with painkillers.
The symptoms and size of the lesion clinically (what the dentist can see with their eyes) and on x-ray will determine the type of treatment. As a rule of thumb, reversible lesions can often be fixed with a simple filling. Irreversible symptoms often need for the tooth to be root canal treated or extracted.
Limit the intake of soft drinks to meal times. It is not usual to have fizzy drinks at breakfast, so this leaves lunch and dinner. Use of a straw also helps limit the exposure of the teeth to the sugar and acid. Avoid doing what some people do in swishing fizzy drinks around their mouths or holding the drink in their mouths.
About Dr. Zia Ul Haq
Dr. Zia Ul Haq graduated from the University of Birmingham in 1999 with a Bachelor of Medical Science B.Med.Sc (Hons). In 2006, he completed his BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) from the University of Sheffield in England with distinctions in Advanced Restorative Dentistry. He has years of extensive experience in veneers, crowns and bridgework, anterior and posterior composites, high-end aesthetic dentures and surgical extractions.
About Dr. Michael’s Dental Clinic
Founded in 1997, Dr. Michael’s Dental Clinic represents the most comprehensive, state-of-the-art, multispecialty dentistry in Dubai, UAE.
It has assembled a team of international dental specialists, hygienists and support staff for general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, implantology, orthodontics, prosthodontics and pediatric dentistry, serving nearly 40,000 patients in and around Dubai.
Written by Dr. Zia Ul Haq