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NEWS | Aug. 22, 2007

Dental Airmen share teeth-unfriendly philosophy

By Staff Sgt. Jesse Garcia 437th Medical Group aerospace medicine dental clinic

Drinking a can of soda can serve as a thirst quencher and caffeine kick, but it can also ruin teeth.

Airmen often sip on sodas all day long, bathing their teeth in sugar and acids. The result of doing this leads to a high cavity rate. The continuing increase in soft drink consumption among adolescents raises a national concern about the health effects of soft drinks.

Sugar-containing soft drinks can be carcinogenic and their low pH level can cause erosions in teeth, said Capt. David Luke, 437th Medical Group aerospace medicine dental clinic general dentist. The phosphorus content of soft drinks may cause calcium resorption and contribute to osteoporosis. Besides causing tooth decay, sodas may also put Airmen at risk for obesity, diabetes and hyperactivity.

According to 2006 statistics from the American Dental Association, soda consumption has gone from 22 gallons per person per year in 1970, to 56 gallons per person per year. If sodas are the drink of choice, the ADA recommends consumption of soda in small amounts. Heading to the water fountain directly after drinking soda will help rinse the sugar and acids off your teeth. Another alternative may be drinking soda through a straw; this will ensure less contact with the teeth.

Many other alternatives to soda, such as fruit juices, sports drinks and energy drinks can be just as harmful, said Captain Luke. Although some may contain less sugar, people who continue to consume large amounts of these drinks could still end up with similar effects because of the acid and sugar content.

Most soft drinks contain one or two acids, which are phosphoric acid and citric acid. Citric acid is the most common acid found in soft drinks, according to base dental clinic members. Exposure to these acids is harmful because the acids cause the enamel to become weaker, allowing a cavity to form.

However, a lot of things can cause cavities along with sugared drinks. If Airmen are constantly snacking on sweets or sipping a sweet beverage, their teeth are exposed to sugars and acid all day long. This could result in more cavities and more trips to see the dentist, said Captain Luke

It is also recommended to eat any sweets or carbohydrates such as chips, cookies or candy, during meals. In doing this, the saliva that is stimulated by chewing will reduce the acidic exposure to teeth.

Also, if an Airman drinks a lot of soft drinks, he is encouraged to practice good oral hygiene. Teeth should be brushed teeth three times a day, with slow and effective strokes. Flossing once a day is also important in preventing cavities between teeth, where the toothbrush can't reach.

The use of over-the-counter fluoride rinses is also helpful to remineralize the teeth where soft drinks might have caused damage from acid attacks.

The best possible solution for quenching thirst in a healthy way is plain old-fashioned water. Proper care of the teeth is important for everyone. Drinking less soda can help maintain healthy, bright smiles.