Soft drinks. A health menace that's out of control

Posted by Dr. Edward Magida | Filed under

Every dentist out there can probably agree that the advent of fluoridation has greatly decreased the incidence of dental decay, commonly called "cavities" In areas that are fluoridated approximately 75% of 6 year olds have never had a cavity. This is truly awesome. What is also truly awesome is the fact that more and more children and young adults in their mid to late teens and early twenties are starting to get cavities. They are past the supposed "cavity prone" years, but they are now starting to get them. Why is this happening?

Soft drinks have made great inroads in the American culture. There are "sports drinks" advertised to energize those worn out on the playing fields, high sugar "juice drinks" advertised with a smidgen of vitamins to supposedly help the growing child, a million and one types of iced tea drinks and sodas, all highly sweetened. There's even a cola that has extra caffeine to keep you going. We have come to accept soft drinks as a routine part of the diet instead of the occasional treat like they were in the past.

Advertising budgets for soft drinks are stratospheric. They are many times larger than money spent promoting good foods such as fruits, vegetables and the like. Because of this children start drinking soda at younger and younger ages. Children are targeted by advertisers who try and instill brand loyalties.

Obviously, since I am a dentist, I see the increased effects these drinks have on teeth. However, because of all the sugar and other chemicals they contain, soft drinks pose significant health risks to the body, such as obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney stones.

In a patient where I observe a marked increase in dental decay, a diet analysis is always warranted. Many times a fluoridated rinse is prescribed nightly. It is interesting to note that after about the age of 16, many dental insurance companies stop paying for professionally applied fluoride. The irony is that this is the time when many teens definitely need this extra protection applied twice a year because many of them are increasing their consumption of these decay promoting drinks.

My message here is to inform people, children and parents alike as to just how much sugar these drinks contain. Some sodas have over 11 teaspoons of sugar per can. This is not a typo! If you had a glass of iced tea, you might put 1 or 2 teaspoons in it. Maybe 3, but not 11. Also the typical can of soda holds 12 ounces. Some soda bottles now contain 20 ounces. You can do the math....

The soft drink industry is on a mission to steadily increase the amount of its products that are bought. People need to realize these health hazards for what they are, and to try and reduce the amount they and their children consume. People also need to think about one other thing. Why are there soda vending machines both on the outside and the inside of our schools? Do the schools really need the money?

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