MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Today, the average American hardly suffers from a shortage of food and drink choices. With fast food restaurants, coffee houses and convenient stores off almost every highway exit, Americans have become used to having easy access to snacks and drinks.
23rd Dental Company, 1st Dental Battalion, sees hundreds of patients a day, with a high percentage of them bearing cavities and other forms of tooth decay thanks to dietary habits, and especially carbonated drinks, said Cmdr. Steven P. Hernandez, dental clinic operative department head with 23rd Dental Company.
Hernandez said beverages such as soda and energy drinks are detrimental to dental health these days.
“People who have more than three to five exposures to sugar per day tend to develop a greater number of cavities,” said Hernandez, a Danville, Ky., native. “No one is telling you not to drink soda. But don’t snack on soda, juices or coffee with sugar throughout the day because you are constantly bathing your mouth in sugar.”
When people eat, the bacteria in their mouths work on a 20-minute to a half-hour cycle in which it feeds, explained Hernandez. Acid, combined with the plaque it comes from, is produced in a human mouth every time bacteria feeds.
If someone eats breakfast in the morning and has a snack less than 20 minutes after initially eating breakfast, it is considered one exposure to food. However, if someone has a snack more than a half- hour after eating, even more acid is produced and erodes tooth enamel, the hard, protective surface of teeth. This is considered a second exposure.
“When you frequently snack or drink soda, you keep your teeth in an acid-producing state,” said Hernandez.
Navy Capt. William C. Morgan, dental clinic periodontist with 23rd Dental Company, explained further.
Frequent exposures to carbonated drinks are especially bad for teeth because they are very high in phosphoric acid and sugar, said Morgan, a Salisbury, Md., native. Not only is a high volume of sugar being exposed to enamel, but the acid also sucks the calcium out of teeth.
“It’s like having your mouth being soaked in battery acid all day long,” said Morgan.
For most regular soda or energy drink consumers, thoughts of eroding enamel are not the first things on their minds when they pop the top of an aluminum can.
Cpl. Charles London, legal specialist with the Staff Judge Advocate Office, Bravo Company, Headquarters Battalion, said drinking multiple energy drinks is part of his daily routine.
“I drink them all day, every day,” said London, a Montgomery, Ala., native. “I like the way they make me feel; like I can take on the world.”
London added during his last dental check up, dental specialists said it was obvious he drank multiple energy drinks by looking between his teeth.
Although drinking soda, coffee or energy drinks may be a hard habit to break for some people, it is a habit worth changing, said Hernandez.
Better dental health does not call for cutting out all sugars and carbohydrates from one’s diet, but rather a matter of practicing better in-between-meal habits, he added.
“Even swishing your mouth with water after you eat or drink can help reduce the amount of acid the plaque in your mouth forms,” he said.
For more information about dental health, call the 23rd Dental Company, 1st Dental Battalion, Dental Clinic front desk at (760) 830-7053.