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What do Meth, Crack Cocaine and Soda Have in Common?

Tim Boyer's picture
Drinking soda

Are you addicted to sodas or other soft drinks? As it turns out, researchers have found out that an addiction to sugary soft drinks can lead to the same type of damage meth and crack cocaine addicts see in their face every day—irreversible tooth decay.

In a recent study published in the journal General Dentistry, researcher Mohamed A. Bassiouny, DMD, MSc, PhD and lead author of the study, says that the amount of damage to your teeth from drinking too much soda is equivalent to that of being addicted to methamphetamine or crack cocaine.

Tooth decay also known as “dental erosion,” is a demineralization process that removes the protective hard dental tissues―enamel and dentin―that gives teeth in their unstained state a pearly white luster. This dental erosion is typically the result of drinking beverages that are both sugary and acidic such as many fruit juices and popular carbonated beverages. The acid component literally eats away at the enamel while the sugar encourages bacterial growth that also damages teeth. While drinking an acidic beverage on occasion is relatively harmless, consumption of excessive amounts of soda over a prolonged period can result in poor dental and physical health.

According to a press release issued by the Academy of General Dentistry, Dr. Bassiouny compared the teeth of soda drinkers who drank up to 2 liters of diet soda daily for three to five years with the teeth of an admitted user of methamphetamine, and the teeth of a previous longtime user of cocaine.

Illicit drugs like methamphetamine are typically acidic due to that its “home manufacture” often includes extremely corrosive materials, such as battery acid, lantern fuel and drain cleaner. Cocaine, on the other hand, is naturally acidic.

What Dr. Bassiouny found was that all participants had severe degenerative enamel erosion.

“Each person experienced severe tooth erosion caused by the high acid levels present in their ‘drug’ of choice—meth, crack, or soda,” says Mohamed A. Bassiouny. “The citric acid present in both regular and diet soda is known to have a high potential for causing tooth erosion.

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Dr. Bassiouny’s findings are an extension of an earlier study he published where he identified the acidic content of beverages such as sodas, black tea, lemon, grapefruit and orange juice and their effects toward tooth decay. In the study, he outlined his points for what people need to do to prevent further dental damage with the following recommendations:

• First, a person needs to identify the source of dental erosion, preferably with the help of a dental professional.

• Second, the person needs to determine and understand how this source of tooth decay affects his or her teeth in order to implement measures to control and prevent further damage.

• Third and lastly, the person should immediately stop consuming acidic foods and beverages, or at the very least, reduce consumption to the absolute minimum.

Dental health professionals recommend reducing the effects of acidic beverages on tooth enamel by rinsing the mouth with water immediately after drinking a soda and chewing sugar-free gum to increase saliva flow to neutralize the acid.

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Academy of General Dentistry press release: “Soda and Illegal Drugs Cause Similar Damage to Teeth”

“Dental erosion due to abuse of illicit drugs and acidic carbonated beverages” General Dentistry 03/2013; 61(2):38-44; Mohamed A Bassiouny.