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    Archive for the ‘teeth’ Category

    In The News: Opening Up A Can Of… Worms

    Did any of you watch 20/20’s investigative report on the children of Appalachia two weeks ago?

    If not, you can watch it here. Truly eye-opening — and heartbreaking.

    I finally caught up with it last night (thank you, DVR!).

    One segment focused on the dental health of children and adolescents in that area; more specifically, the problem of “Mountain Dew mouth.”

    As a result of extreme soda consumption (Mountain Dew is given to children in sippy cups and considered an ailment for depression), children as young as two years of age are developing cavities.

    Some elementary school students have such damaged teeth that the simple act of brushing is painful — so painful, in fact, that many of these children stop brushing their teeth.

    In an attempt to help, dentist Edwin Smith spent $150,000 of his savings to turn an 18 wheel truck into a mobile dental clinic.

    This segment has set off a firestorm among the nutrition community. All sorts of questions are being asked — and hotly debated.

    Is it accurate to blame soda — and a specific brand at that — for cavities?

    Or does the lack of dental hygiene awareness and access to dental care set the stage for problems regardless of the types of food eaten?

    After all, starchy foods like bread, rice, and crackers are just as likely to increase cavity risk.  Also, a case can certainly be made that many people drink soda and don’t get cavities because they take adequare care of their oral health.

    What is most interesting is Pepsi’s response to this. Make that responses — three of them!

    Here is the first one.

    Notice the drastic change in tone in their second statement.

    And, finally, here is the short third statement that followed.

    As if that wasn’t enough, Diane Sawyer gave further updates on Good Morning America last week. The big announcement? PepsiCo. decided to pay for a second mobile clinic.

    What role — if any — should Pepsi play in this? Is their donation of a second mobile clinic a form of aid or just a publicity stunt for good PR?

    What about local and federal government? Should they be involved?

    Then we get to the hottest button issue of all. How does this problem begin to get addressed? Education? Policy? Some sort of hybrid?

    I’m even more disturbed by the fact that, as a result of mountaintop mining for coal, tap water in much of the Appalachian region is contaminated and undrinkable.

    Please weigh in with any opinion(s) you may have.


    You Ask, I Answer: Diet Soda

    I was debating [with a colleague] about whether diet soda is bad for you.

    I mentioned some folks believe the artificial sweeteners in them may be cancer-causing, but that it’s a step up from guzzling sugary sodas every day.

    She said something about the acid in the soda not being that bad for you, because our stomachs are already acidic.

    But I always thought the phosphoric acid in the soda wasn’t so good for the tum tum.

    What’s your verdict?

    — Judith (last name withheld)
    (location withheld)

    The problem with all soda — diet or not — is the phosphoric acid in it.

    Not so much because it’s bad for your stomach (it isn’t), but because of its effect on our calcium levels.

    Our bodies like to stay in balance (you might remember the term “homeostasis” from your high school biology class). Calcium and phosphate, in particular, are two minerals that are actually good buddies. In fact, they’re inseparable.

    If one’s level in our blood goes up, the other one wants to go up as well. So when you drink that can of diet soda, your body’s phosphate levels rise. Calcium sees this, and says, “Wait a second, I want to go up, too!”

    If you are like most people in the United States, your calcium intake isn’t as high as it needs to be, meaning you don’t have much available calcium floating around. So in order to up its levels, calcium, eager to join phosphate, starts leeching extra calcium from the first place where it can find it – our bones.

    Let me be very clear here – if your calcium intake is adequate, the occasional diet soda is not going to make you develop osteoporosis.

    But, in looking at teenagers, for instance (many of whom are already calcium deficient and on top of that are guzzling down two or three sodas a day) this is a huge problem.

    Phosphoric acid is also responsible for wearing away enamel (a protective layer) on our teeth, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay.

    I don’t see anything wrong with having a soda here or there as a treat (i.e.: once or twice a month), but definitely take issue with soda being someone’s main source of fluids on a daily — or almost-daily — basis.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A 2007 study published in the Academy of General Dentistry’s journal reported that colas’ — both regular and diet — enamel erosion potential is 10 times higher that of fruit juice.

    What does this mean? In essence, it gives another reason to think of sodas — diet or not — as occasional beverages, rather than daily staples.

    The citric and phosphoric acids in sodas wear out our enamel, the protective substance covering the crowns of our teeth. Over time, constant attacks on our enamel lead to tooth decay.

    What’s crucial to understand is that a lack of sucrose (table sugar) in a diet soda does not mean it is automatically safe for our teeth.

    If you see phosphoric or citric acid listed as an ingredient, my best recommendation is to consume that drink through a straw. That way, the liquid goes straight to the back of the throat, reducing our enamel’s exposure to it.

    If you do not have access to a straw, you want to make sure you to drink that beverage fairly quickly.  Slowly sipping a soda over the course of twenty minutes is much more detrimental to tooth enamel than drinking it in a quick fashion.

    Taking tap water as the benchmark (which has a very neutral pH of approximately 7.6), here is how some popular sodas measure up.  The lower the number, the more damaging that beverage is to our enamel.

    • Cherry Coke: 2.52
    • Coke: 2.53
    • Pepsi: 2.53
    • Dr. Pepper: 2.9
    • 7-Up: 3.2
    • Diet Coke: 3.29
    • Root Beer: 4.0

    Numbers Game: Dental Dilemma

    A 2007 study published in the Academy of General Dentistry’s General Dentistry journal reported that colas’ — both regular and diet — enamel erosion potential is _______ times higher that of fruit juice.

    a) 20
    b) 5
    c) 15
    d) 10

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Saturday for the answer!


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