Sip all day. Get decay. Soda can harm your oral health.

The phrase "Sip all day. Get decay." was originated and made popular by the Minnesota Dental Association. This phrase captures the connection between soda and tooth decay, and it has caught on in family dental centers around the country due to the increased incidence of tooth decay caused by soda and other high-sugar beverages.

40-year-old Victim of "Soda Mouth"Dr. Joe Sharkus of First Choice Dental told of a 40-year-old patient who recently visited one of the 10 First Choice Dental family dental centers in greater Madison. "The patient had been an all-day soda drinker for years," said Dr. Sharkus. "He is now a 40-year-old man with a full set of dentures due in part to the damage all-day soda sipping caused to his teeth. It eventually caught up with him." This patient gave First Choice Dental permission to share his photograph, in an effort to send a powerful message to soda addicts who can change their habits and their health.

Anyone who stays away from the dentist for too long risks increased dental decay. But an important culprit is what we drink. The average American drinks more than 53 gallons of soft drinks each year, more than any other beverage including milk, beer, coffee or water. Teens and young adults are more likely than older adults to drink soft drinks and citrus or sports energy drinks. Tooth decay caused by soda has become so common that this condition is often referred to as "Soda Mouth" by dentists.

According to research, kids and teens drink three times more pop than 20 years ago. 12-19-year-old boys who drink pop consume an average of 81 gallons of pop per year. Girls the same age drink an average of 61 gallons. The same study by the Minnesota Dental Association included the fact that a 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew contains 11 teaspoons of sugar. This means that a person who drinks two cans per day consumes more than 1.5 pounds of sugar per week from Mountain Dew alone.
Soda companies invest a lot of money ensuring that vending machines with their products are readily available to us in office buildings, stores, malls and around every corner, and to kids and teens in schools. No wonder milk consumption in schools has declined 40% in the past 20 years.

We've become more aware of the adverse impact that increased soda consumption has had on our overall health. Nutrition research commonly points to soda as a culprit behind rising obesity figures, increased incidence of diabetes, caffeine addiction, and lower milk consumption which can lead to calcium deficiencies.

In addition to cavity-causing sugar, it's also the acid in soda and citrus drinks that causes tooth decay. "Phosphoric acid in soda and citric acid in citrus drinks can cause tooth enamel corrosion," says Dr. Sharkus. "Instead, drink water for a healthy smile. Plain old tap water is among the best choices for healthy hydration."

Bottled water is better than no water, and certainly better than juice or soda. However Dr. Sharkus cautions that one advantage most tap water has over bottled water is that it contains fluoride. Dr. Sharkus says, "While recent discussions have cautioned against getting too much fluoride, it's still important that we get enough. The fluoride that we ingest is especially important for the proper development of tooth structure as teeth form. Therefore, fluoridated water is especially critical to children ages 12 and under, who still have teeth coming in."

Dr. Sharkus recommends that if you filter your water at home, you should select a water filtration system that won't filter out fluoride or purchase bottled water that contains fluoride.

"It's risky to let any health care issue slide," says Dr. Sharkus. "Dental health is no different. Particularly when it's easy and painless to set up regular appointments, and to make healthy and wise choices about what we eat and drink."