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Everyone's heard that coke can dissolve enamel (after all, it's strong enough to dissolve a nail, right?). However, studies have shown that the dissolved tooth and nail experiments are largely false. Coke was used by some as a cleaner to remove rust stains, and that's where part of the myth arose from. Believe it or not, drinks like cranberry juice have a lower pH and are more acidic than coke. And while some researchers were able to erode some teeth, these experiments were often conducted in petri dishes and were not terribly pertinent to real life.
So that means soda isn't as bad as we think it is, right? Wrong! One Prevention article says that sodas are some of the worse beverages you can consume:
It's a well-known adage: Drinking too much soda is bad for you. But just how bad is excessive soda consumption for your body?
The unanimous answer from experts: “Very.” And regular soda isn’t the only culprit. Even diet drinks, which utilize artificial sweeteners in place of sugar, could still negatively impact an individual’s health.
High rates of soda consumption have been linked with numerous health problems, including weight gain, poor dental health, diabetes and cardiovascular disease—which can ultimately lead to heart attacks, stroke and premature death . . .
We’re finding some research that seems to indicate that calories from sugar are more easily turned into fat in your body than calories from fat in food are turned into fat in your body,” Ochner said. Translation: Eating and drinking sugar makes you gain more weight than eating fat.
Due to the overwhelmingly adverse health effects associated with drinking soda, Ochner recommends that people should drop soda completely from their diets. But if you still need that 140-calorie fix, he said almost anything else is better than soda.
“There’s zero nutritional value. None,” Ochner said. “You’d probably be better off eating those calories at McDonald’s, because you’d at least get some nutrition.”
While this article mainly focuses on overall health, it does mention poor dental health being an issue. And even though we've established that the tooth-in-coke experiments aren't reliable, that doesn't mean that they don't affect your teeth.
For instance, the bacteria in your mouth need sugar to thrive (and they get an overabundance from soda). When the bacteria feeds on the sugar, they produce acid as a by-product. Too many acids can dissolve the calcium in your enamel, making them weak and prone to dental caries. While dental fillings can fix some of these problems, those who consume too much soda may need a lot of restorations.
Because soda has such adverse health effects, many communities are inacting laws that would discourage people from overconsumption:
How do sugar taxes work?
Sugar taxes raise the price of SSBs. The local government then collects that money to put toward public services, infrastructure improvements and other city costs. A city with a $0.01 sugar tax will see the price of a two-liter bottle of soda increase by about $0.68 and a six-pack of canned soda increase by $0.72. These taxes do not usually apply to milk, 100% juice, baby formula, alcohol or medical beverages.
Do sugar taxes affect health?
A 2016 study published in The BMJ found that following the implementation of a 2014 SSB tax in Mexico, purchases of taxed beverages decreased while purchases of un-taxed beverages increased. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Dental Research also indicated that SSB taxation could reduce caries rates and dental treatment costs. Furthermore, a 2015 study in the Journal of Dental Research notes that while dentistry has focused on increasing oral hygiene and prevention services, recent findings suggest that efforts to decreasing sugar intake to reduce caries should also be increased.
What can dental students do about sugar taxes?
If you live in or attend school in an area with sugar taxes, you can talk to your patients about what they mean. Patients often need help feeling motivated to take action towards improving their oral health and dietary habits. Talking with patients about how they can save money and improve their oral health by drinking tap water instead of soda is a great motivating factor! Informing patients about the true cost of soda may be just the push they need to break their soda-drinking habit.
While there's some debate over the effectiveness of these kinds of taxes and over penalizing people for personal choices, at least local governments are concerned for their citizens. Perhaps these sugar taxes -- even if they don't last -- will help people reevaluate their habits and how soda affects their health.
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