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Saved by the Straw! Sipping Soda can Reduce Cavities

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Saved by the Straw!

Saved by the Straw! Sipping Soda can Reduce Cavities

August 29, 2005
By: Maayan S. Heller for Dental1

According to research recently published in General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal, correct positioning and use of straws when drinking soda can help reduce the risk of cavities.

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Healthy sipping tips:

Drink less soda!

Put the straw into you mouth, on top of your tongue and behind your teeth instead of between your lips to reduce the direct contact between your teeth and the soda.

Sip slowly but don’t let the drink linger in your mouth when drinking.

Don't drink soda before going to bed.

Don't brush your teeth immediately after drinking soda (the brushing can harm the weakened enamel).

When brushing, brush in a gentle, circular motion (horizontal brushing can wear away at the weakened enamel).

If you have dry mouth, try to avoid carbonated beverages. Drink more water instead.

Mohammed Bassiouny, DMD, MSc, PhD., a professor of restorative dentistry at Temple University’s School of Dentistry and the leading researcher in the General Dentistry article, said the problem with soda is more than its sugary nature; it’s its acidic content.

“The presence of acids as a particular ingredient is a significant concern to the dental field,” he said. “Citric acid, which is particularly strong, and phosphoric acid” are the main ones to watch for.

Bassiouny added that soda producers occasionally add a third, malic acid, which people should look for too.

Because citric acid is organic, and found in citrus fruits, people should be equally wary of those fruits and their juices. Common examples are: Oranges/orange juice, grapefruits/grapefruit juice, and lemons and limes/-ades. Many sports drinks also contain the acids, Bassiouny added.

Some sodas on the market, though, he noted, do not contain the acids, so consumers should carefully note the contents of all of their drinks. Nevertheless, the absence of the acids shouldn’t encourage people to drink more soda, since the high sugar content in most sodas remains a concern.

The problem with the acids in sodas is that they erode the teeth’s outer layer, the enamel, by bonding to it and breaking it down. The erosion exposes the protected center of the teeth, making it vulnerable to decay.

The American Beverage Association’s Web site indicates that in 2004, Americans consumed slightly more than 52 gallons of carbonated soft drinks per person per year, and the retail sale of carbonated soft drinks last year totaled almost $65.9 billion.

According to Bassiouny, “the problem is mainly with the high volume of consumption.” The reduction of overall soda consumption should be a primary goal, he said, but controlling current intake can help.

Using a straw, he said, helps control the effects soda can have on your mouth – but that’s not a new idea.

“The recommendation of the straw has been tested some time ago,” said Bassiouny. “But no one really discussed where to put it.” And that, he said, is the critical issue when it comes to the effectiveness of the straw.

The mouth has a natural retaliation system in saliva, which neutralizes acids, but most people don’t give it a chance.

People tend to drink too quickly, and “the faster you drink, you don’t give your saliva the chance to neutralize the acids,” said Bassiouny. Another issue is the “dry-mouth” problem, especially for people suffering from Anorexia or Bulimia. Instead of using artificial saliva, or simply water, most people with “dry-mouth” consume excessive quantities of soda in order to keep their mouths moistened because it has the sugars so it tastes good and gives them some energy. As a result, these individuals often suffer from tooth decay and frequent cavities.

“The issue is where to deliver the acid-rich substances so they hit the saliva first and minimize the exposure of the teeth to the acids,” he said. “This is behind the front teeth.”

Behind the teeth, in the oral cavity where the tongue is, is the best spot to “deposit” sodas in the mouth, according to Bassiouny. There the saliva can do its job and neutralize the acids.

But the positioning of the straw is not the only solution. Bassiouny and his co-researchers are recommending that people also minimize the amount, frequency and speed of soda consumption.

Following these suggestions as well as using a straw and being conscious of its placement in your mouth will help reduce the destructive effects soda can have on your teeth.

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