One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books growing up was Hop on Pop. However, my dad hated the book with a passion — probably because I liked to act out the pictures.
“We like to hop on top of Pop. STOP! You must not hop on Pop.”
Twenty years later, I find myself using these rhymes to help educate patients about oral health. According to a recent Gallup poll, 48% of Americans reported consuming at least one pop a day. Of that percentage, 7% reported consuming 4 or more pops a day! And we wonder why there are so many Super Bowl commercials involving polar bears drinking the bubbly.
Such habits have led to increased incidences of obesity and diabetes in the United States. Thankfully, a tremendous amount of public awareness campaigns and school cafeteria changes have begun to curb this concerning trend. It is my hope these changes, along with proper oral health education, will begin to decrease the incidence of dental caries or “cavities.”
(You can tell I'm from the Midwest because I use the word "pop" to refer to soft drinks. No matter what term you use — soda pop, Coke, pop or something else — the results remain the same.)
Cavities Are Preventable
Unfortunately, the following fact comes as a surprise to many: dental caries remains the number one chronic disease in America, a disease that is quite preventable!
Pop, juice and sports drinks remain the primary culprits of dental caries due to drastic amounts of sugar and acid. In one 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew, there are 11 teaspoons of sugar. My baking skills are quite lacking, but that’s nearly a quarter cup of sugar in one can of Mountain Dew!
If you don’t “Do the Dew,” Coca-Cola and Minute Maid OJ have 10 teaspoons of sugar, while Welch’s Grape Juice has 16 teaspoons. To convey this to patients, we tape 10 Domino’s sugar packets to one can of Coke or Pepsi. Keep in mind, most people drink more than that in one sitting. Small and large sizes at McDonalds are 16 and 30 oz., respectively.
The Myth About Diet Pop
To this you say, "Why should I stop? I drink diet pop."
Unfortunately, the recipe for cavities hasn’t changed:
Bacteria + Sugar = Acid
Acid causes healthy tooth structure to break down resulting in cavities. While diet pop limits the sugar in our equation, there still is a tremendous amount of acid in diet pop which dissolves away our teeth and generates an environment that oral bacteria thrive in.
Five Tips to Help Minimize the Effect of Pop on Your Teeth
I hope you've heard these recommendations for healthy teeth before: brush at least twice a day, floss once, keep regular dental appointments and stop drinking pop and other sugary drinks!
In addition, here are five additional tips to help limit your sugary drink intake and protect your teeth.
#1: Substitute water.
It is the best drink for your teeth and a great way to stay hydrated.
#2: Switch to diet pop.
If you’re a regular pop drinker, wean yourself from it by switching to diet pop to at least avoid the sugars.
#3: Drink through a straw.
It limits the amount of direct exposure on your teeth.
#4: Drink with meals.
Food helps increases salivary flow, which flushes the area
#5: MOST IMPORTANTLY, DO NOT SIP THROUGHOUT THE DAY. DRINK IT ALL IN ONE SITTING.
Sipping throughout the day continually bathes our teeth in sugar and acid. The next time you think about gripping for a sip, do this exercise. Stick a penny from 1984 in a cup of pop when you start sipping your daily pop. Pull it out when you’re done sipping at the end of the day. Thirty years of caked on dirt and grim washed away in one day. Just imagine what that acid is doing to your teeth.
Now is the time. Hop OFF Pop and onto the oral health train!