Standing here in the check-out line of the supermarket has prompted me to write this. I just could not take it any longer! As I looked at the carts of the people around me, I was shocked! Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE , had 24 bottles or cans of soda in their cart. That in itself would not alarm most people, but you see, I am a dentist. All I could see was dental problems leaving the store. As I stood there, at least seven hundred 12 OZ cans were being checked out, 24 cans at a time. I will get back to the soda in a little bit. First, however, we need to discuss tooth decay.
A recent study performed by the National Institute of Dental Research showed that 94% of adults exhibited evidence of present or past decay. Among children aged 12-17 years, 67% had decay in their permanent teeth. These statistics very closely reflect what we see every day in our office. It would seem to me, that just everyone (94% of the population) would be concerned about this disease, and that any parent would be concerned due to the fact that two-thirds of the children high school aged and younger will get it. I am concerned, very concerned! That is why I was shocked standing in the check-out at the grocery store.
Demineralization of the tooth, (meaning the tooth gets softer because of the mineral content gets less) is tooth decay. That happens when an acid lies up next to the tooth for an extended period of time. The most common source of the acid is from certain types of bacteria that live in all of our mouths. That does not mean that we all have to get tooth decay. Several things need to happen before the decay process becomes possible. First, there needs to be enough bad bacteria, the most common is Strep Mutans, to produce the acid. Remember, however, that not all bacteria in our mouths are bad bugs. Many seem to cause no problems at all. Then, we need to give the bacteria enough of the right kind of food so they can produce the acid. Then, there needs to be a large enough number of the bacteria (mass) to produce enough of the acid. Only after you have bugs, food, and mass do you get decay. That is where the soda comes in!!!!!!
Soda is sweetened with sugar, and it just so happens that sugar is the right kind of food for bacteria to eat. In fact, Strep Mutans love it! Every time we eat something with sugar, it’s like giving the bugs a Thanksgiving Feast and they can produce acid for approximately 30 minutes. That is the problem!
You see, if we only drank soda at meal time, there would not be enough acid production to cause a problem. But, many people are drinking soda all day long. Either sipping on one can, all day, or 6-8 cans throughout the day. Yes, 6-8 is not unusual. Either way, the bacteria can grow fat and happy, multiply faster than you can brush them off. This causes a lot of decay problems for you and the people you care about.
Well…hopefully this article has caught your attention and got you started thinking about what causes tooth decay. If you have any questions, please ask your family dentist how you can prevent or repair problems for yourself and family. Also, the next time you are at the grocery store, check out the cart beside you. If there is not any soda in it, you know that family stands a great chance of having a “Look Mom, no cavities” check-up.
Dr. Latz was a Michigan Dental School graduate in 1975. He is a faculty member of the L.D. Pankey Institute of Dental Education and has drank less than 8 OZ. of soda pop in the last 25 years!!!