More and more, you see the sugar industry being compared to the tobacco biz – in how they manipulate science, in their PR manipulations, in the damage their product does to health and well-being. So considering all the lawsuits filed against big tobacco by smokers and their families, would it be any surprise to see folks go after the purveyors of sugar-saturated products, as well?
It’s happening over in China, where a court just recently accepted such a case against Coke and Pepsi.
The family members of Xiao Long (pseudonym) demanded compensation of 17,000 yuan ($2,741) from the two companies for the dentals fee they spent on Xiao Long’s rotten teeth, reported Hefei Evening News on Friday.
Xiao Long, now 26, started drinking coke from both brands since he was about 3 years old, consuming between one and four cans a day.
“I thought Coke was just a normal drink, and wasn’t aware [of the damage] as the producers are big international companies that guarantee quality,” Xiao Long’s father said.
Meanwhile, here in the States, at least one law firm appears to be actively seeking people willing to file suit against PepsiCo. over “Mountain Dew Mouth” in children – severe caries caused by the popular soft drink.
Sodas and similar soft drinks are very acidic, with damage starting within 30 seconds of consumption. Eventually, the acids erode the hard outer layer of enamel that protects the softer inner tissues of the teeth. This alone makes them much more vulnerable to decay – and why diet/sugar-free versions of the drinks are often no better for you, dentally speaking. They’re acidic, too.
Once enamel is eroded, it cannot be regenerated. After all the teeth have developed, there are no longer any cells capable of making new enamel. At best, if the decay process is stopped – as it can be nutritionally or, in some cases, with ozone – new dentin can be formed, but enamel? No.
Then there’s the matter of sugars in these drinks, which feed the oral bacteria and other pathogens – the fungus C. albicans, for instance, which has been shown to team up with the bacterium S. mutans to create stronger biofilms (plaque) on the teeth. Their metabolic activity makes conditions even more acidic, and thus more damaging. At the same time, the flow of fluid reverses within the microscopic tubules that make up the dentin, the layer of tissue just below the enamel. Normally, it flows outward, which helps repel pathogens. Reversed, it draws them into the tooth.
Now, the good news is that soda consumption has been declining. Still, new concerns have arisen. Recently, a lot of attention has been given to the potential dental impact of juicing, as more people seem to be taking it up for intermittent fasting or cleansing – or just as a way to consume more fruit and veg. What could be healthier, right?
Except that fruit juices in particular tend to be concentrated sugars – natural sugars, yes, but still sugars. In fact, there can sometimes be as much as in a can of soda! Juice also tends to be very acidic.
So it’s no surprise that we’re starting to hear more observations such as this from Dr. Uchenna Okoye, speaking with Marie Claire,
“I’ve seen a 50 per cent increase in tooth decay in the last six months, and a significant proportion of it is among clients who drink fresh juice daily,” she says, explaining that women in their 20s seem to be the most commonly affected. And it’s all because the fructose that you find in apples, bananas and, well, basically every fruit out there, causes the enamel on your teeth to soften and erode – leading to rapid decay and cavities.
“The damage is often done within six weeks,’ adds Dr Okoye, worryingly. ‘Juice from fruits have a high acid content and can damage the enamel of your teeth in exactly the same way that a fizzy drink does.”
Apparently, cavities have been reported at higher rates since the juice trend started several years back. “We see an increase in decay, even with those who have good home care and see their dentist twice a year,” says [cosmetic dentist Marc] Lowenberg. “The juice seems to sit at the junction where the tooth meets the gum and in between teeth.”
Your best bet? Go easy on the juice and consume whole vegetables and fruit instead – and to slake thirst, opt for water. If you do want to keep on juicing, a few tips:
- Drink the juice through a straw to minimize contact with the teeth.
- Use more veg than fruit in your juice combinations to lower the sugar content.
- Rinse your mouth with water afterwards.
- Brush your teeth 30 to 45 minutes afterwards. (This gives enough time for the oral pH to neutralize once again.)