Enjoy Mountain Dew® soda’s high-voltage flavor? Buyer beware. The effects of drinking too much of it can be just as shocking.
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“People who frequently drink Mountain Dew and other types of soda can develop major dental problems, including extensive cavities that visibly darken and break the teeth. This phenomenon is sometimes known as ‘Mountain Dew mouth,’” says dentist Anne Clemons, DMD.
Dr. Clemons explains why soda has such a strong effect on the health of your teeth and ways you can prevent it from happening.
How Mountain Dew and other sodas cause tooth decay
Dr. Clemons says that most sodas contain the Mount Rushmore of cavity-causing ingredients: sugar (in the form of high fructose corn syrup), carbonation and citric acid.
“Tooth enamel is the hard, outer layer of your teeth. These ingredients can wear down your enamel through a process called erosion,” she explains.
Here’s how tooth erosion works:
- Bacteria live in the plaque around your teeth.
- When you drink acidic beverages, you create an acidic environment in your mouth. This environment is ideal for cavity-causing bacteria, allowing them to grow and thrive.
- Cavity-causing bacteria break down the sugars and starches left on your teeth. This process creates even more acid.
- The acid erodes your tooth enamel, weakening your teeth and setting the stage for cavities and tooth decay.
- The bacteria continue to work their way into the inner layers of your teeth, causing irreversible damage.
“Even healthy mouths have bacteria. But the sugars and acid throw it out of balance, creating a snowball effect,” says Dr. Clemons. “The cavity-causing bacteria continue to increase over time, and these changes to your teeth get exponentially worse.”
The earlier tooth decay starts, the harder it is to stave off — which is why prevention is so important.
How to prevent Mountain Dew mouth
Dr. Clemons says these habits can help reduce your risk:
- Brush often and thoroughly: Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. If you’ve had soda, wait 30 to 60 minutes before brushing. As acid lingers on your teeth, you don’t want to brush the acid into your teeth. “The acidic environment won’t last forever,” notes Dr. Clemons, “and you want to brush when your teeth are less vulnerable to erosion.”
- Rinse and spit: Don’t have a toothbrush handy? Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda to help neutralize the acid. Rinsing with water before it’s time to brush is also a good idea to further protect your teeth.
- Focus on quality, not quantity, when flossing: “Many people floss just to get food out from between their teeth. But you should also wrap floss around each tooth to clean its entire surface and be sure to go down a little below the gum,” explains Dr. Clemons.
- Chew gum: Chew sugar-free gum to help maintain good saliva flow in your mouth. “Saliva is a natural protector against cavities,” she adds.
Should you avoid Mountain Dew and other soft drinks?
While Mountain Dew mouth pictures may have you running for the hills, there’s room for compromise. “Prolonged contact with the teeth is what changes things,” Dr. Clemons says. “How and when you drink soda matters.”
Here are her tips for enjoying soda responsibly:
- Drink it in moderation. Limit yourself to two or fewer servings each week — it shouldn’t be a daily habit.
- Drink soda in one sitting. Sipping it over a prolonged period doesn’t give your mouth time to recover.
- Sip soda through a straw so less touches your teeth.
How to fix Mountain Dew mouth
Regular dental checkups not only help prevent tooth decay, but they also lead to better treatment results. But make honesty your policy. Your dentist needs to have a clear understanding of your habits. Making sure you brush twice a day for at least two minutes can also help in the long run.
“I can fix your teeth, but it won’t matter if the environment in your mouth that’s causing tooth destruction doesn’t change. It’s critical to control, improve and change your risk factors,” Dr. Clemons says.
“Regular checkups also help us catch cavities early, which gives us a better chance to save the tooth. We can build up the tooth’s eroded structure with dental fillings, crowns and root canals. The treatment we use depends on how much of the tooth is affected.”