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Cola Darkens and Damages Teeth?

Cola may be a relatively innocent victim of its reputation. A recent study shows that other sodas, sports drinks and even lemonade appear to have a more corrosive effect on tooth enamel.

But, dental experts agree, that's no reason to ditch the drinks you love.

The study, published in the Journal of The Academy of General Dentistry, showed other drinks are 6 to 11 times more corrosive than cola.

In order, with the most corrosive first, they are: lemonade, energy drinks, sports drinks, fitness water, and commercial iced teas. Cola "brings up the rear" on this list.

What makes these drinks so corrosive to teeth?

New York City cosmetic dentist Dr. Nancy Rosen explains to The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith that most cola-based drinks contain one or more acids, such as citric and phosphoric acids. The sports beverages contain not only citric and phosphoric acids, but also other additives and organic acids. The acids are put in to give the drinks a longer shelf life and to give them their tangy tastes.

But acids cause dental enamel erosion, meaning they eat away at the hard, protective coating of teeth, which can then break, be brittle, chipped or translucent at the edges, and lose their color and shine. That can give you an unattractive smile, and cause sensitivity and pain. For the study, scientists "marinated" chunks of healthy human tooth enamel in the drinks for 14 days, weighing them every 24 to 48 hours to see how much enamel was being lost.

Rosen says that's not realistic, because people don't hold drinks in their mouth for 14 days, but it does demonstrate the corrosive effects of the acids in the drinks, and she's seen lots of dental erosion in people who drink them.

The good news, says Rosen, is that you can minimize the corrosive effects. How? 1. Drink less and drink it in a short period of time. "You gotta chug it," Rosen advises. 2. Rinse with water or chew sugarless gum. "That way, the acid is rinsed away from your teeth and isn't sticking to your teeth." 3. Drink through a straw 4. Drink the liquids when they're chilled. That reduces acid potency 5. Don't suck on lemons. Limit citric flavor candies that rest against teeth. The bad news, Rosen warns, is that dental erosion is irreversible. Once tooth enamel is gone, it's gone.

Incidentally, root beer is the least corrosive soda, because it has the smallest amount of acid and additives.

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