If you come from the region extending from the southwest to the northeast of the US, you’ll be no stranger to the term “mountain dew mouth.” From Alabama and Georgia, through Kentucky and Ohio to the Penn state and New York, dew mouth continues to wreak havoc.
Recent stats show that up to 98% of people in the region experience tooth decay before turning 44 years old. The issue is just as serious among the younger generation. According to Eliza Barclay of NPR at least 26% of preschoolers in the region have tooth decay.
Here’s everything you need to know about this widespread issue, including causes and what you can do to protect yourself.
What’s Mountain Dew Mouth?
Mountain Dew – the soft drink – is a carbonated, fluorescent-green soda. It’s been around for a long time. Willy the Hillbilly once declared that “it will tickle your innards” in a 1966 commercial. However, the drink was officially developed and popularized in the early and mid-1990s in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Today, the soda is most known for ruining the teeth of residents of the area, in an epidemic known as Mountain Dew Mouth.
Pricilla Harris explores the depths of the region’s affinity with carbonated beverages in a legal brief published in 2009. Other surveys, including by author Kim Manz, have also sought to determine the causes of disproportionate occurrence of tooth decay and tooth loss in the Appalachian region. All these studies point to the region’s affinity with carbonated drinks.
Studies by the state government of Ohio have found similar results – that the Appalachian region has a lot more dental issues than non-Appalachian states.
How Soda Causes Dental Issues
A limited study in 2006 by Von Fraunher shows that cola drinks dissolve enamel up to 65X faster than both water and root beer. It also shows that enamel dissolves about 30X faster in canned ice tea produced by brewed black tea and coffee.
Mountain Dew falls in a different category of soft drinks that have an even worse effect on enamel. According to the Von Fraunhofer study, “enamel dissolution is 2-5 times greater in Mountain Dew and similar beverages than among cola beverages.”
Now, imagine that coke erodes your teeth 65X faster than water. But then you have a beverage that’s five times worse!
How soda erodes teeth isn’t a mystery either. Carbonated drinks cause tooth erosion which may later lead to decay and other tooth problems.
Erosion is caused by the acidity of the soda. And, no, it’s not all to do with pH. Although pH is differences in the mouth can also worsen erosion, other interactions between acids in soda and your teeth are worse.
When you drink soda, the sugars in it react with bacteria in your mouth to form acid. The concentration of the acid depends on the components of the soda. Also, all sodas form acids in the mouth, whether regular or diet. As long as it’s a carbonated drink, it will cause acids in your mouth. When acids react with enamel, it causes dental erosion – a chemical reaction that softens and eventually dissolves the surface of the teeth.
The worst part is that enamel damage is irreversible. Tooth enamel isn’t like skin or other soft tissues in the mouth that re-grow after minor damage. When the enamel is gone, it’s gone.
Signs of Mountain Dew Mouth
If you drink Mountain Dew a lot, then it’s likely that you have Mountain Dew Mouth. However, you may want to check out for the following symptoms before arriving at a conclusion;
- Stained teeth
- Tooth decay
- Cavity formations
- Weakened enamel
What Can You Do About it?
First off, you should take steps to avoid Mountain Dew Mouth. The following are some recommendations from dental and general health professionals;
- Stop drinking soda: Although other foods, especially processed foods, are bad for your teeth, too, soda is the worst of the lot. You’d be doing your teeth and overall health a huge favor by quitting it altogether.
- Switch to healthy drinks: Fortunately, you have endless alternatives to Mountain Dew and other carbonated drinks. Water, milk, green tea, and fresh juices are just a few examples you can consider.
- Practice oral hygiene routines: Brush and floss at least twice a day. This can help wash out acidic sugars from your mouth. Remember that sodas have the biggest impact in the 20 minutes immediately after consumption.
- Schedule regular dental checkups: Never go more than six months without seeing your dentist. It’s the only way to uncover and address potential issues early before they transform into more severe issues.
Take Action Today
If you’ve been a fan of Mountain Dew or carbonated sodas in general for the better part of your life, this is the time to change. It could be the decision that saves your life.