Years of drinking diet soda may get you a mouth full of teeth comparable to those of someone who smokes crack cocaine or crystal meth.
A study published Tuesday in the journal General Dentistry concludes that an addiction to soda may damage your teeth as much as the drugs.
The study looked at three people's mouths. One person was a meth user, another abused cocaine, and the third, a woman in her 30s, drank about two liters of diet soda a day for nearly five years.
None of the test subjects went to the dentist on a regular basis, and all had poor oral hygiene. The woman who consumed the diet soda hadn't been to the dentist in more than 20 years. All three had the same severity of damage from tooth erosion, which can happen when acid wears away tooth enamel.
"Each person experienced severe tooth erosion caused by the high acid levels present in their drug of choice -- meth, crack or soda," said lead author of the report, Dr. Mohamed A. Bassiouny.
"The striking similarities found in this study should be a wake-up call to consumers who think that soda, even diet soda, is not harmful to their oral health."
Dr. Marc Collman, a North Ogden dentist, said that while there's a lot of citric and phosphoric acid in diet soda as well as in cocaine, and many ingredients used to make meth are corrosive, he hasn't seen the same amount of damage in soda drinkers as in drug users.
"I do dental work at the Weber County Jail, and I see a lot of people who have used meth," he said. "I'm not seeing the same breakdown in people who drink diet soda as I'm seeing in meth mouths."
Collman said drugs dry out the salivary glands, making it difficult for the acids to wash away. While diet soda and even regular soda can affect the teeth over time, he said other factors play into tooth decay, such as diets filled with sugary foods, poor oral care at home and a lack of regular dental visits.
The American Beverage Association released a statement in HealthDay, a national health news distribution, about the case of the soda-chugging woman in the study.
The group said she hadn't received dental care for more than two-thirds of her life and that 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.
Collman said that, like anything else, diet soda used in moderation isn't going to destroy your teeth to the same degree as a drug abuser's as long as you're staying on top of your dental health. Rinse your mouth with water to dilute the acid from soda or any acidic foods, he said, and pay attention to your oral health care.