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Mountain Dew Mouth - The Effects of Excessive Soft Drink Consumption on Your Teeth
by By Mark I. Malterud, DDS St. Paul, MN
Picture this: A 23 year-old patient, just out of college and armed with dental insurance possibly for the first time since they were a child, makes an appointment to get their teeth cleaned. It's been a long time coming - the patient felt he could not afford to have dentistry without dental insurance.

After a comprehensive examination completed by the dentist, it is reported that the patient shows beginnings of gum disease, 12 cavities and the beginnings of decay on an additional 11 teeth. The patient was aghast.

Upon questioning by the dentist, the patient relayed a history of drinking Mountain Dew from the time he awoke to late into the evenings during late night study sessions. The patient also confessed that he hadn't been great about brushing and flossing.

BeforeAfter - 1 week post treatment

Just What Are You Drinking?
Welcome to the "Mountain Dew Dental Generation". Surely you've seen Mountain Dew ads - the avant-garde, devil-may-care, "I'm invincible", "just Dew it" attitude. Just Dew-ing it, however, has its dental repercussions.

What you may not realize when you drink a can of your favorite soft drink, is the amount of sugar that you are actually putting into your body. A teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to approximately 4 grams of sugar. Think about it: in a 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew, there are 46 grams of refined sugars (listed as carbohydrates). At 46 grams, that's 11.5 teaspoons of sugar in each and every 12-ounce can consumed! Also found in these carbonated beverages are citric acid and carbonic acid.

You Aren't the Only One Who Loves the 'Dew
The actual decay process that we know of in dentistry is related to bacteria and carbohydrates (sugars). In our mouths are billions of tiny bacteria, which can be left in high concentrations due to poor brushing and flossing habits. As we eat, these bacteria also eat these same foods we enjoy. The bacteria that cause decay love carbohydrates.

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. The bacteria eat foods high in sugars, convert them to waste products and eliminate them onto our teeth. The waste products are highly acidic and will start to remove the minerals on the surface of the teeth. This tooth's surface is quickly re-mineralized by natural minerals found in our saliva - but only after the concentration of acid is reduced by brushing, flossing or rinsing.

Enter the excessive soft drink consumer, who drinks these sugar-laden beverages all day long. Combined with poor oral hygiene, you have the makings of a disaster. The drinker's teeth never have the chance to re-mineralize and the decay takes off rampantly to destroy the teeth.

Next Ö Welcome Gum Disease
Once a nice, smooth, pearly surface, the tooth is now found to be coated in a thick, sticky layer also known as plaque.

The Mountain Dew drinker's body recognizes the plaque as a foreign matter and tries to fight it off. The proliferation of blood vessels trying to fight off the offending plaque results in red and swollen looking gums - the beginnings of gum disease.

Reality? It's not the Mountain Dew or other sugared soft drinks that cause the problems. It's the behavior patterns of the person consuming the sugars combined with poor oral hygiene habits that create problems for the teeth.

Are You a Candidate?
If you find white spots along the gum lines of your teeth or are sensitive to foods - especially sweets and cold foods - consult with your dentist. Regular (every 6 months) checkups with your dentist will help identify the lesions of new decay before they can affect too much tooth structure.

What Can I Do to Prevent These Problems?
You've heard it time and time again. Brushing and flossing will do the most to reduce the chances of the ravages of this type of problem. If you remove the plaque and bacteria, the only effect left is the carbonic acid and the citric acid. Reducing the consumption of these beverages can only help.

What Can I Do to Have the Problem Fixed?
If the lesions are caught early, dentists can recommend a re-mineralizing solution that incorporates fluoride, calcium and phosphates to help rebuild the crystals of the surface of the teeth. Deeper more advanced cavities can be filled with minimally invasive procedures that restore the tooth form with bonded restorations that match the tooth color and form.

And the 23 Year-old?
As previously mentioned, the rebuilding process can be very extensive, illustrating just how devastating this problem can become. This patient had experienced orthodontics, 6-month check-ups and very few cavities as a child. However, as a young adult he let things go for an extended period of time because he felt he couldn't afford to go to the dentist. Now as a successful network engineer with his own company, he wants to get his smile back. He is quite aware that his past lack of dental care and his daily consumption of 100+ fluid ounces of Mountain Dew have created a major problem.

Every tooth in his mouth requires restoration varying from simple fillings to root canals and crowns. The process for this patient involves restoring the teeth with fillings and direct restorations and then monitoring his ability to maintain the health of the teeth. After a year or two of maintenance, we will be able to restore the teeth with more permanent restorations such as crowns, and bring him back to proper form, function and aesthetics that he deserves.

Is It Worth It?
The next time you reach for that sugary beverage or food, read the label and ask yourself if it's really worth it. If you feel you must indulge, brushing, flossing and rinsing are your best bets to avoid the ravages of decay as well as regular check-ups with your dentist.

Getting Started
If you are considering a cosmetic dental procedure, consult a dentist about the process, risks, recovery time and costs. For confidential, personalized information at no cost or obligation, use the Find A Specialist tool to find a dentist near you. Itís your first step to looking and feeling better today!

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