Sweet drinks cause serious dental problems along with obesity

Opinion: Sweet drinks cause serious dental problems al

By Deborah L. Foote

There has been a lot of chatter about the impact of sugary drinks – soda, fruit juice, energy drinks – on obesity. But what about oral health?

Research shows that consumption of sugary drinks—especially more acidic carbonated drinks — promotes dental caries and erosion. Soda consumption is associated with nearly twice the risk of dental caries in children and increases the likelihood of cavities in adults.

Deborah Foote

Deborah Foote

The acid in soda and other sugar sweetened beverages causes erosion of tooth enamel, often after just one sip, and the sugar in these beverages provides fuel for bacteria that cause tooth decay.

And although diet beverages can provide calorie savings if substituted for high-calorie sweetened beverages, they are not recommended because they often have high acid content that can harm teeth.

Latinos and African-Americans are more likely to consume sugar-sweetened beverages on a daily basis compared to whites. This disparity is influenced by a lack of grocery stores, a high prevalence of convenience stores, and the low cost of sugar sweetened beverages compared to healthier beverages in many predominantly Latino and African American communities along with a long history of soda marketing that targets these communities.

Leading public health scientists and researchers have supported bills in California and New York to require warning labels on soda and other sugar drinks to inform consumers of the risk of diabetes, obesity and tooth decay from excessive consumption.

A recent poll conducted by Healthier Colorado shows strong support for public policy action on sugary drinks including limiting children’s access to soda or other sugary drinks at day care facilities; requiring warning labels that indicate consumption of sugary drinks leads to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay; and making sure that sugary drinks are no longer the default beverage in kids meals offered by restaurants.

Oral Health Colorado and partners fighting obesity, bottled water consumption and dental disease are coming together to develop a “tap water campaign” to be aired on Telemundo this fall in an effort to encourage Latinos in the Denver Metro area to switch from sugary drinks to tap water.

Other advocates in Colorado have initiatives encouraging decreased sugary drink consumption, including Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation’s Cavities Get Around campaign, Boulder County’s Rethink Your Drink, and Metro Denver Partners for Healthy Beverage Consumption.

As research continues to emerge that shows how dangerous sugary drinks are to our health, public opinion will demand public policy change. Oral Health Colorado looks forward to working with a diverse network of partners to bring these change to fruition.

Deborah Foote, MPA, is executive director of Oral Health Colorado. She can be contacted at deborah@oralhealthcolorado.org

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