The Great Tooth Test

The Great Tooth Test

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Ed Yeates ReportingWe're going to show you an experiment that may make all of us think twice about what we put in our mouth. Most of us do it everyday, numerous times, and without ever thinking it's doing any real harm. In offices, schools, at the movies and games, in our homes, everywhere we turn, we're continually drinking cans, cups or bottles of soda pop.

They taste great, but within all this bubbly brew, especially the colas, there's an acid eating away at our teeth. Don't believe it? Dr. Craige Olson who heads up the dental practice residency program at the University of Utah is carving up a tooth that was soaked in a cola drink for twelve days.

He told us how to set up the experiment where we took human extracted teeth, bleached them white, then soaked them in the cola. Every day we dumped out the old pop and put in new. Seven days later we delivered the teeth to Dr. Olson.

Dr. Olson: “It’s both because of the acid and because of the color of the cola that the tooth picks up so much color.”

But staining is not the major concern. The acidity of the drink has pitted the teeth, creating peaks and valleys in the enamel, so much so he can carve what was once the body's hardest substance like wood.

Dr. Olson: "If you take a normal tooth, this knife just bounces off. I mean it just slides, it's just slippery. But on this you can see that I'm actually scraping tooth structure off."

So how acidic are some of these drinks? At the University's lab Dustin Williams measures our samples using a PH sensor. Keep in mind that on a PH log scale, each full number is ten times more or less acidic than the other and the lower the number goes, the more acidic it is.

So let's begin at the bottom.
Root beer was the least acidic at 4.89;
then Sprite at 3.81;
Mountain Dew at 3.69;
Diet Dr. Pepper, 3.55;
Diet Coke, 3.35;
Diet Pepsi, 3.29;
Dr. Pepper, 3.03;
Pepsi, 2.76;
and Coke Classic at 2.70.

At that high acidic level, Dr. Olsen says colas containing phosphoric acid will eventually do over years what our experiment accelerated in 12 days. His advice?

Dr. Olson: "So if you absolutely can't stop drinking the colas or those kinds of drinks, then drink them over a short period of time, and have a glass of water afterwards."

Again, it's not the occasional cola that's so much a worry, but the more than three cans per day consumer or the big gulp guzzler who sips all day while driving or sitting at a desk.

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