What’s Worse for Teeth: Sugar or Acid?

Line 'em up!
Image by SuperFantastic via Flickr

Many people know that sugar causes tooth decay, which is why parents are always telling their children not to eat too much candy and of course, soda pop. However, soda pop is a lot more harmful for your teeth than you think. The process of carbonation that all sodas go through, which gives soda its bubbly and fizzy nature, make the sugary drink pretty acidic. You may not know it but acid can be much more harmful for your teeth than sugar.

Acidity is measure on the pH scale, with 1 being highly acidic and 14 being highly basic. To put things in perspective, the saliva in your mouth has a pH of 7, which is considered “neutral.” Anything with a pH below 5.5 will cause damage to your teeth. Lemon juice has a pH of 2, while Coke and other sodas have a pH ranging from around 3 to 4. However, the pH scale is logarithmic, so a soda with a pH of 3 is ten times more acidic than one with a pH of 4. Sugars promote tooth decay because many of the bacteria on your teeth that cause the decay feed on sugar, but brushing and using mouthwash will get rid of those bacteria. However, acid literally causes tooth decay because it strips the protective enamel from your teeth. Using a fluoride toothpaste will help to rebuild and protect your enamel. Therefore, with soda’s high sugar content and acidic nature, it is doubly bad for your teeth.