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Current Concepts in Preventive Dentistry

Course Number: 334

Sugar Sweetened Beverages

Soft drinks, sport drinks, and energy drinks containing sugar are popular in the U.S. Frequent consumption of sugary drinks has long been known to contribute to dental caries. According to the CDC, 63% of youth and 49% of adults consume sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) daily. SSB drinks include: regular soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugar. Among youth, SSB intake is higher in boys, adolescents, non-Latino Blacks, or youth living in low income families. Among adults, SSB intake is higher among males, young adults, non-Latino Blacks or Mexican-American, or low-income adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children and adolescents should not consume energy drinks, as they can harm children, especially those children at risk, e.g., diabetes, seizures, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavior disorders. However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicate 30-50% of adolescents consume energy drinks regularly. Soft drinks have been linked to medical conditions such as obesity and type-2 diabetes. A regular soft drink is made from carbonated water, added sugar and flavors. Each can of soda contains the equivalent of about ten teaspoons, or 40 grams, of sugar. Mountain Dew® is so popular in the U.S. that the coined phrase “Mountain Dew Mouth” is a recognized term used by the dental profession for patients diagnosed with rampant caries and/or erosion.

A study published in General Dentistry, the clinical journal for the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) reported there was a rise in energy and sports drink use, especially with adolescents. The researchers conducted a lab experiment where they exposed samples of human tooth enamel to 13 different energy and sports drinks and found that energy drinks had the potential to be more harmful than sports drinks after five days. Even if sugar-free drinks are consumed to prevent dental caries, acids in these types of drinks can cause enamel erosion if chronically consumed. We’ve heard the phrase “everything in moderation.” As dental professionals we need to educate our patients about frequently consuming sugary drinks and the potential for dental caries. However, to ask our patients to stop drinking their favorite drink would seem unreasonable. Asking our patients to consume their favorite drinks with meals and not throughout the day, would reduce the number of daily lactic acid attacks to enamel and exposed cementum.