The latest in overhyped science: Study says diet soda erodes teeth as much as meth


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Eats_DietSodaThe Academy of General Dentistry got media outlets all riled up recently after releasing details about a new study that suggests diet soda damages teeth as much as methamphetamine and crack cocaine.

It’s not news that soda’s high acidity can cause erosion of tooth enamel, but suggesting its detrimental effects on teeth mimic those of meth or crack cocaine use takes things to a whole new level.

Here’s why we’re not convinced: The article, published in the March/April 2013 issue of General Dentistry, studied only THREE patients — meaning there was only one person representing the oral effects of meth use, one representing crack cocaine use and one representing heavy diet soda consumption.

All three participants had neglected dental care. And we’re not talking about just missing a visit or two. The former crack cocaine user hadn’t been to the dentist in 25 years, and the diet soda drinker hadn’t received dental care for more than 20 years. Additionally, each participant admitted to having poor oral hygiene.

The study failed to adequately highlight other eating habits that could have contributed to tooth decay, citing very few details about each participants’ eating habits outside of soda consumption.

And in case you’ve only heard about this through headlines, the diet soda drinker was drinking 2 liters a day — we’re talking major diet soda addiction. So it’s important to note that the one and only participant who represented diet soda consumption in this study wasn’t representative of someone who drinks diet soda in moderation.

The American Beverage Association criticized the study for similar reasons (in addition to the fact that the study obviously doesn’t make its industry look good). “The woman referenced in this article did not receive dental health services for more than 20 years — two-thirds of her life. To single out diet soda consumption as the unique factor in her tooth decay and erosion — and to compare it to that from illicit drug use — is irresponsible. The body of available science does not support that beverages are a unique factor in causing tooth decay or erosion. However, we do know that brushing and flossing our teeth, along with making regular visits to the dentist, play a very important role in preventing them,” the ABA told CBSNews.com in a statement.

We’re not ones to back the soda industry, but in this case, the article seems unnecessarily sensational. The study was unusually small, and the researcher didn’t seem to take into consideration (or share in the article) all possible variables. To make matters worse, the way it’s been covered in the media deceives readers into thinking a 12-ounce can of diet soda a day is going to leave them with teeth likes the ones pictured below. (Apologies for the photo.)

Are you better off drinking water? ABSOLUTELY. Do we think there are plenty of good reasons to avoid drinking soda, both regular and diet? Definitely! But we doubt your teeth are going to look like a meth addict’s simply because you indulge in the occasional Diet Pepsi. Just don’t neglect those dental checkups and don’t forget to brush and floss.