What do Powerade, Gatorade, Vitamin water, Lemonade, Energy drinks, Snapple and Sprite have in common?
They are all cavity causing if one consumes these popular drinks in large quantities.
Most people intrinsically realize that soda is bad for their teeth. The average middle school student (or at least my kid) has done the baby tooth in a cup of soda experiment, so in general most of us recognize that carbonated sugar water is highly acidic and can lead to one’s tooth slowly dissolving away.
A recent article in the Journal of the American Dental Association explores this even further, investigating the pH of hundreds of beverages. pH as one may recall from chemistry class, is a measure of acidity or alkalinity of a solution. Low pH (less than 4.0) can lead to the destruction of tooth structure even in the absence of cavity causing bacteria. In short – acidity in drinks is not healthy for your teeth.
It might come as a surprise to a lot of people that there the vast majority of commercially available drinks such as sports drinks, vitamin waters, and ‘healthy’ fruit juices have very low pH’s.
The most acidic beverages tested (all with a pH less than 2.4) were lemon juice, RC Cola, Coca-Cola Classic, Coca-Cola Cherry and Pepsi.
And the least ‘acidic’ beverage tested? Municipal water from Birmingham, Alabama which at a pH of 7.2 proves that when it comes to healthy teeth, water is the way to go.
For your viewing pleasure, here are tables taken from the actual article (Reddy, Avanija, Don F. Norris, Stephanie S. Momeni, Belinda Waldo, and John D. Ruby. “The PH of Beverages in the United States.” The Journal of the American Dental Association 147.4 (2016): 255-63. Web) showing the tested pH levels of most drinks from on the shelves of our grocery stores. Take a look and see where your favorite drink fits in.
One never ever hears of a mouse developing a cavity. That may be because they either never do in fact get cavities (ie. their teeth are somewhat resistant to decay) or that the NIDH (National Institute of Dental Health) has determined that federal funding for research is better off spent in other areas.
Or maybe it’s because they like cheese.
Let me explain. A May/June 2013 article in General Dentistry, the peer reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (aka a pretty reliable source) found that cheese changes the pH of the oral environment, suggesting that it may help reduce the risk of tooth erosion. If you remember High School chemistry, an increase in pH means the environment is less acidic. Studies have shown that a pH of over 5.5 lessens the chance of tooth erosion, and hence also cavities.
The study, which examined 68 subjects between the ages of 12 and 15, divided these subjects into 3 separate groups and tested their pH levels both before and after their consumption of sugar free yogurt, milk or cheddar cheese. They found that a rapid rise in oral pH levels was found only in individuals who had consumed the cheese. This could be because that the very act of chewing stimulates saliva production which in of itself causes a rise in pH. The authors also hypothesize that there are compounds in cheese which adhere to teeth and are anti-cariogenic in effect. What these ‘compounds’ are is unclear.
Further google sleuthing by us here at Dentistry For Children, did find that mice can indeed develop cavities. None other than the most famous mouse of all has had to seek out dental care, as shown by this 1938 sketch titled, “Mickey’s Toothache”. We particularly enjoyed the animators portrayal of the dentist as a bearded, one legged and saw wielding fellow, though we do take issue with the saw.
The takeaway from this sketch is that at least in Walt Disney’s mind, mice can get cavities and that dentists are kinda scary. Fortunately, we now know that if Mickey had stuck to an all Cheese diet maybe he would have had a fighting chance of having a cavity free life.