Is Diet Soda Bad for Teeth?

Dentists Serving Greenville, Simpsonville, Landrum & Nearby Areas of South Carolina and North Carolina

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Greenville woman lifts diet soda glass while signaling stop Limiting how much sugar you consume every day can reduce your waistline, but it doesn't necessarily mean a healthier mouth and body. Many people drink diet soda to help with weight loss, thinking it's a better option. However, the acids contained in diet drinks are just as bad for your teeth as their sugary counterparts. Diet sodas may not contain sugar, but they typically cause the same dental erosion. 

Both regular and diet soda weaken and dissolve your tooth enamel, which shows up as tooth sensitivity, chalky appearance, pitting in the teeth and opacity changes. It's well-known that drinking soda or "pop" is linked to cavities, obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis. The sugar found in soda mixes with the bacteria in your mouth to form acids that attack your teeth. These "attacks" last around 20 minutes which restarts after each sip. Ongoing acid attacks on your teeth weaken your tooth enamel and make you more susceptible to tooth decay.

Diet and sugar-free sodas contain their own acids, though, which causes similar damage to your oral health. These additives lead to enamel erosion, and lime and lemon drinks are particularly harmful. Diet soda consumption is linked to abdominal obesity in adults over 65, which increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

An Australian study at the University of Melbourne tested 15 soft drinks to study their effects on healthy molars. Researchers found that all of the beverages, including regular and diet Coca Cola, caused tooth erosion, whether or not they were sugar-free. Another study at the University of Michigan found similar results. Two weeks of exposure to regular Coca-Cola caused tooth enamel to dissolve at 2.8mg, and diet Coca-Cola caused 3mg of enamel degradation. They also looked at the effects of citrus juices and other sugar-free drinks.

Both studies found that water was the most beneficial and actually hardens enamel. However, drinking soda or diet soda in moderation a few times a week poses less risk than drinking more than 12 ounces a day.

How to Protect Your Teeth When You Drink Diet Soda

Diet soda may be bad for your teeth, but there are several ways you can protect your oral health while still enjoying the occasional sugar-free drink:

  • Know When to Brush and Floss: Wait 30-60 minutes after drinking regular or diet soda to brush and floss your teeth to avoid causing more harm because the drinks soften your enamel.
  • Drink Diet Soda with Meals: The best time to drink diet soda is with meals and try to use a (reusable) straw to limit the acidic exposure on your teeth. Avoid diet soda before bed as well.
  • Avoid Citrus and Fruity Flavors: The studies mentioned above found that lime and lemon drinks caused the worst damage. Some went so far as to say the corrosive nature of lime and lemon juice is nearly as bad as battery acid. Root beer and tap water were found to be the least detrimental, followed by coffee and tea.
  • Stay Hydrated: Try to avoid drinking regular or diet soda every day or at least staying below 12 ounces a day. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and swish with water to dilute the acids and sugars in your mouth.
  • Have Bi-Annual Dental Exams and Cleanings: Regular visits with our Greenville dentists can catch tooth decay early, preventing costly dental work in the future.

 Contact Wood Creek Dental in Greenville, South Carolina

 Schedule your dental exam and cleaning with one of our experienced dentists today at (864) 288-5300. Wood Creek Dental serves patients in Greenville and surrounding areas of North and South Carolina.