Diet Soda Under the Microscope Again — As Bad for Teeth As Meth?

There was a time when the only disadvantage to enjoying diet soda was the taste.  Heavy use of artificial sweeteners and chemicals you most likely cannot pronounce made diet sodas a far cry from the taste of a syrupy regular Coca Cola, but ironically, the different taste actually ushered in a whole different form of addiction.  Most people don’t drink diet soda because they are avoiding regular soda for dietary reasons.  That may be how it started out, but after a while, people seem to be legitimately addicted to diet soda in and of itself.  Being calorie free and low in sodium content, there was little reason for anyone to see this as a negative.  After all, the only other beverage options that are calorie free is unsweetened tea or water.  So, if you like diet soda and that keeps you from drinking a sugary, calorie-laden beverage, then up until just recently, everyone said, “Good for you.”

Well, the last couple of years diet soda has taken a heck of a beating.  It started when a study revealed that diet soda actually tends to hurt diet goals rather than help.  The studies (there were more than one reaching a consensus on the issue) said that while diet soda did not add to your calorie total directly, it indirectly thwarted diet efforts by increasing the desire for sweetness.  Basically, the chemicals and artificial sweeteners activated the consumer’s “sweet tooth,” making them even more likely to indulge in bad food choices later.  So, diet soda was suddenly being challenged on the one thing that its fans cherished the most:  that it was a calorie-free, diet-friendly option.

Diet Coke -- No cocaine, but still has the same results.
Diet Coke — No cocaine, but still has the same results.

These studies were the start, but now, diet soda is once again getting more bad press.  Another supposed benefit of diet soda over regular soda was that the absence of sugar meant that diet soda did not contribute to teeth problems as bad as the real thing.  New studies indicate that the cocktail of chemicals that make diet soda taste the way it does without sugar make it overwhelmingly acidic, much more so than a regular soda, and truly terrible when compared to water or tea.  This burst of acidity, according to researchers, is so damaging to the teeth in the long run that it is on par with the type of damage you see in people that abuse cocaine or methamphetamine.  That’s right; the study says that Diet Coke can make your teeth look just as bad as a drug addict.

So, what’s our take on it?  Well, like most anything, too much is probably not good.  With the exception of tobacco products, almost everything that is edible is okay at some level but bad for you if you overindulge (tobacco, of course, has the distinction of being pretty bad for you even in small doses).  If you like to have a diet soda now and again, chances are you won’t see any damage to your teeth that is out of the ordinary.  If you drink two liters of the stuff a day, like the woman cited in the study did for over two years, yes, you will probably look like a meth-head before you know it.

We’d also like to point out that the crux of the matter is your oral hygiene.  Remember, sugar doesn’t rot your teeth out if you brush and floss regularly, making sure enough isn’t left behind to get to the dirty work.  The chemicals in diet soda only hurt your teeth while they are actually contacting them, so if you practice good oral hygiene, chances are that you will not see the damaging effects.  Experts in restorative dentistry have publicly acknowledged that the people that had these damning, catastrophic damage to their mouth admittedly did not see the dentist with any regularity and did not practice the best oral hygiene.

Everyone that drinks diet soda waits until their teeth gets this bad to do something about it.
Everyone that drinks diet soda waits until their teeth gets this bad to do something about it.

Bottom line:  if you refuse to brush your teeth, your teeth will probably rot and look like a drug addict.  Unless you drink nothing but water and straight raw vegetables at all times.  If you brush your teeth and maybe go to see the dentist once in a while, fit in a good flossing when you can, and maybe gargle some Listerine or something now and again, you can pretty much do anything you want and you’ll be okay.  Except cigarettes.

Sound familiar?  Common sense anyone?

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