Sodas, Canned Teas Attack Tooth Enamel

Additives in Regular, Diet Drinks Damage Teeth in Laboratory Study

From the WebMD Archives

June 11, 2004 -- Soft drinks, especially light-colored drinks, and canned iced tea appear to "aggressively" harm teeth, new research shows.

The list includes many different sodas -- Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, Canada Dry ginger ale -- and canned iced tea, specifically Arizona Iced Tea, all eroded tooth enamel in laboratory studies. In addition, both diet and regular versions had the same bad effect on tooth enamel, according to researcher J. Anthony von Fraunhofer, MSc, PhD, with the University of Maryland Baltimore Dental School.

Non-cola drinks, such as ginger ale, Mountain Dew, and Sprite were particularly harmful to tooth enamel. Brewed black tea, root beer, coffee, and water had a minimal effect, he writes in his report. It appears in the new issue of General Dentistry.

Other studies have pointed to soft drinks as being responsible for children's tooth decay and obesity problems. It is a huge problem, since it has been reported that the average person in the U.S. drinks about 16 ounces of soft drinks daily -- that's about 53 gallons a year, writes von Fraunhofer.

While sugar in soft drinks is at least partially to blame for tooth decay, other factors are also at work, he writes. The acidity from certain drinks also plays a role. If mouth acidity increases -- and if it happens often enough -- the chemical reaction hurts teeth to a greater extent. Over time the result is tooth decay, he explains.

In this pilot study, von Fraunhofer examines the effects that various carbonated soft drinks -- both regular and diet versions -- on tooth enamel.

He exposed 20 healthy teeth (all extracted for orthodontic or periodontic reasons) to various soft drinks including canned iced tea for 14 days.

The result: Soft drinks like Sprite, Mountain Dew, and Arizona Iced Tea were especially harmful to tooth enamel, reports von Fraunhofer. Tap water, root beer, brewed black tea, and black coffee all showed minimal enamel damage.


  • Non-cola soft drinks caused two to five times the damage as darker drinks, such as Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper.
  • Canned iced tea caused 30 times the enamel damage as brewed tea or coffee.
  • Non-cola drinks cause up to 180 times more tooth enamel damage than did water.
  • Root beer was the safest soft drink tested.

Non-cola drinks contain flavor additives that are "far more aggressive" at eroding teeth, compared with regular cola soft drinks such as Coke and Pepsi, he writes.

The best defense against tooth decay is drinking fewer soft drinks. Also, allowing more time between soft drinks, rinsing your mouth with water after drinking, or brushing your teeth will also help.

SOURCE: von Fraunhofer, J. General Dentistry, July/August 2004.

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