Monthly Archives: January 2017

Diet Soda Habit as Bad for Teeth as Meth Addiction

Heavy consumption of diet soda can damage teeth as badly as methamphetamine or crack cocaine, a new study contends.

“You look at it side-to-side with ‘meth mouth’ or ‘coke mouth,’ it is startling to see the intensity and extent of damage more or less the same,” said Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a professor of restorative dentistry at the Temple University School of Dentistry in Philadelphia.

Methamphetamine, crack cocaine and soda — sweetened or not — are all highly acidic and can cause similar dental problems, Bassiouny said in a study published recently in the journal General Dentistry.

The acid in soda is in the form of citric acid and phosphoric acid, Bassiouny said. Without good dental hygiene, constant exposure can cause erosion and significant oral damage, he said.

In his study, he found that a woman in her 30s who drank 2 liters of diet soda daily for three to five years experienced tooth rot and decay remarkably similar to that suffered by a 29-year-old methamphetamine addict and a 51-year-old habitual crack cocaine user.

The younger man had used methamphetamine for three years, and often downed two or three cans of regular soda a day because the drugs made his mouth so dry. The older man reported an 18-year history of crack abuse.

The woman said concerns about weight gain led her to choose diet soda over regular, and admitted that she had not seen a dentist in many years, according to the study. She also associated sweetened beverages with a higher risk of tooth decay.

Her teeth were soft and discolored, with many destroyed by erosion. She usually sipped the beverage directly from a can or a bottle, and held the soda in her mouth before swallowing, Bassiouny said.

“She also mentioned that when doing so, she habitually leaned on her left side against the arm of the sofa while watching television,” he said. The “massive” damage to the left side of her mouth bore this out and resulted in what is called a collapsed bite.

“None of the teeth affected by erosion were salvageable,” Bassiouny said. The woman had to have all of her teeth removed and replaced with dentures.

Methamphetamine and crack are known to ravage the mouths of users, and the two drug abusers needed all of their teeth extracted.

Besides exposing teeth to damaging acid, these illegal drugs reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth, providing less opportunity for the acids to wash away. The drugs also cause systemic health problems that affect dental hygiene. Previous studies have linked “meth mouth” with rampant decay.

A group representing soft drink manufacturers said this case study should not be seen as an indictment of diet sodas generally.

“The woman referenced in this article did not receive dental health services for more than 20 years — two-thirds of her life,” the American Beverage Association said in a statement. “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,” the group said. “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.”

Dr. Eugene Antenucci, spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry, said he was not surprised by Bassiouny’s findings.

“From my experience, the damage that happens to people’s mouths from cocaine or methamphetamine are degrees greater than what I see from soda, but I see a lot of damage from soda,” said Antenucci, a dentist in Huntington, N.Y.

Damage from excessive soda consumption can cause “very deep brown stains, where it’s actually eroded into the tooth, and the teeth are soft and leathery,” he said.

Prevention is the best cure, Bassiouny said. How often you drink soda, how much you drink and how long it’s in your mouth all are important factors. “You can help prevent it from happening by reducing any of those,” he said.

Sugar-free soda is no better than regular soda when it comes to dental decay, Bassiouny added. “Both of them have the same drastic effect if they are consumed in the same frequency, the same amount and the same duration,” he said.

Antenucci said people need to keep in mind that they are drinking something that is highly acidic when they pick up a soda.

“Knowing that, you limit it and understand that you need to clean your mouth afterward,” he said. “Even simple water will wash away the acidity. And everyone should brush twice a day, if not more often.”

Should people give up drinking soda? “You’d be better off if you didn’t drink the soda,” Antenucci said, “but in my mind there’s not a reason for that extreme.”

Vitamin D May Prevent Tooth Decay

Vitamin D might help prevent tooth decay, a new review of existing studies published in the journal Nutrition Reviews found.

The review includes data from 3,000 children enrolled in 24 clinical trials published from the 1920s to the 1980s. Overall, the trials showed that vitamin D supplementation led to a 50 percent drop in the incidence of tooth decay, perhaps because vitamin D helps the body absorb the tooth-building calcium it needs.

In the trials, the vitamin was delivered either via supplemental UV radiation or by diet products, such as cod liver oil, which contain it.

Philippe Hujoel, PhD, DDS, of the University of Washington, conducted the trial, saying his main goal was to summarize the existing research, so dental professionals could “take a fresh look at this vitamin D question.”

But Hujoel’s results come as no surprise to researchers who have also studied vitamin D and dental health. “The findings from the University of Washington reaffirm the importance of vitamin D for dental health,” Michael Holick, PhD, MD, professor of medicine at the Boston University Medical Center told Science Daily. He went on to say that children who are vitamin D deficient experience late teething and a risk of tooth decay.

Dental caries, or decay, among children are increasing while vitamin D levels among many populations have dropped, Hujoel said in the study. “Whether this is more than just a coincidence is open to debate,” he said. “In the meantime, pregnant women or young mothers can do little harm by realizing that vitamin D is essential to their offspring’s health,” also noting that systematic reviews do have some flaws based on possible biases in some of the clinical trials that damaged the results.

In recent years, vitamin D has gained a reputation as sort of a vitamin cure-all. Most recently, women with the highest levels of vitamin D were shown to have the lowest risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by researchers at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis. A second separate study found that low vitamin D levels results in a greater Alzheimer’s risk, even when isolating for other lifestyle and health factors such as body-mass index, diet, and cognitive performance. Other strong links have been identified between low levels of vitamin D and cancer and low levels of vitamin D and heart disease.

Human Teeth Healthier in the Stone Age Than Today

Something to think about next time you’re in the dentist’s chair: Ancient humans had healthier teeth than people do today, researchers say.

This decline in oral health over the past 7,500 years is the result of changes in oral bacteria due to human evolution and industrialization, the study authors said. These changes have led to chronic oral and other health problems, according to the report published Feb. 18 in Nature Genetics.

“The composition of oral bacteria changed markedly with the introduction of farming, and again around 150 years ago,” explained study leader Alan Cooper, a professor and director of the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, in a center news release. “With the introduction of processed sugar and flour in the Industrial Revolution, we can see a dramatically decreased diversity in our oralbacteria, allowing domination by caries [cavities]-causing strains. The modern mouth basically exists in a permanent disease state.”

The international team of researchers examined DNA that had been preserved in tartar — calcified dental plaque — found on 34 prehistoric northern European human skeletons. They used these samples to analyze how oral bacteria changed from the Stone Age to the last hunter-gatherers, medieval times and later with the introduction of food manufacturing in the Industrial Revolution.

The evolution of human behavior and diet have had a negative impact on oral health, the investigators said.

“This is the first record of how our evolution over the last 7,500 years has impacted the bacteria we carry with us, and the important health consequences,” Cooper said. “Oral bacteria in modern man are markedly less diverse than historic populations and this is thought to contribute to chronic oral and other disease in post-industrial lifestyles,” he pointed out.

Study lead author Christina Adler, now at the University of Sydney, added that “dental plaque represents the only easily accessible source of preserved human bacteria.” And, she said in the news release, “Genetic analysis of plaque can create a powerful new record of dietary impacts, health changes and oral pathogen genomic evolution, deep into the past.”

The researchers said their research is being expanded to include other periods in time, other areas of the world and other species, such as Neanderthals.

Tooth Loss Associated With Higher Risk for Heart Disease

For adults, losing teeth is bad enough, but tooth loss is also associated with several risk factors for heart disease, a large international study suggests.

These heart disease-related risk factors include diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and smoking.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 16,000 people in 39 countries who provided information about their remaining number of teeth and the frequency of gum bleeds. About 40 percent of the participants had fewer than 15 teeth and 16 percent had no teeth, while 25 percent reported gum bleeds.

For every decrease in the number of teeth, there was an increase in the levels of a harmful enzyme that promotes inflammation and hardening of the arteries. The study authors also noted that along with fewer teeth came increases in other heart disease risk markers, including “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and higher blood sugar, blood pressure and waist size.

People with fewer teeth were also more likely to have diabetes, with the risk increasing 11 percent for every significant decrease in the number of teeth, the investigators found.

Being a current or former smoker was also linked to tooth loss, according to the study scheduled for presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), in San Francisco.

Gum bleeds were associated with higher levels of bad cholesterol and blood pressure.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The researchers added that it is still unclear what is behind the association between tooth loss, gum health and heart health.

“Whether periodontal disease actually causes coronary heart disease remains to be shown. It could be that the two conditions share common risk factors independently,” Dr. Ola Vedin, from the department of medical sciences at Uppsala University in Sweden, said in an ACC news release. “Those who believe that a causal relationship exists propose several theories, including systemic inflammation, the presence of bacteria in the blood from infected teeth and bacteria invading coronary plaques.”