What Is Mountain Dew Mouth?

How Soda Drinks Are Destroying Mouths

young man drinking big soda
Blend Images - Moxie Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Mountain Dew mouth is a term penned by dentists in reference to a form of tooth decay that is caused by drinking excessive amounts of sugary soda. The term is widely used in poorer areas of the country, especially the Appalachian Mountains.  

Soda is a Prime Culprit 

Soda has been named one of the prime culprits for both obesity and diabetes. Dentists across these areas are seeing an alarmingly high rate of tooth decay across all aged groups from preschoolers with tooth decay to the elderly with higher rates of extracted teeth.

 

Mountain Dew was invented in Tennessee, and the problem has been attributed to the accessibility of soda due its relative low cost. This issue has sparked discussions on whether policies should be put in place to restrict soda purchases with food stamps. 

While all soda, in essence, can cause advanced tooth decay, Mountain Dew has long been directly associated with advanced tooth decay and pain in children and adults, likely due to the higher sugar content (as compared to most other sodas).

Similarity to Meth Mouth 

Of most concern, is that Mountain Dew mouth has been likened by dental professionals to the level of oral health seen in a dental condition known as meth mouth, because the rate in which the decay progresses in users of methamphetamine and the affect on dentition is very similar. Dentist's will observe many of the teeth turning to a brown, decayed mush.

The disease process of tooth decay itself is caused by a shift in bacteria occurring in the oral environment due to dietary intake of sugary drinks like soda.

Refined sugars that are added to soda are a form of simple carbohydrate which are feed to certain strains of bacteria in the mouth.  The problem in widespread tooth decay is that the oral environment has been overrun with fast metabolizing bugs due to the availability of the simple sugars.  

Imbalances in the population of bacteria will cause the overproduction of acid which decreases the pH within the oral environment.

 Decreased pH makes tooth enamel particularly susceptible to leaching of minerals like calcium which is the essential process of tooth decay.  Once enough of the tooth enamel has been eaten away by bacteria, the nerve of the tooth is exposed and dental infection may be experienced.  

Tooth Decay in Children 

A significant public health problem, tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood illness in the United States. It can cause dental complications for life.  Once a tooth is restored with a dental restoration, it will need to be monitored and replaced over the course of its lifetime.  Of more concern is that it is more common in children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds where families have less means to pay for dental treatment.  

The most effective way to combat tooth decay is by preventing the disease from occurring. Consumption of refined foods and drinks with high added sugar like soda present a public health dilemma due to high rates of resultant chronic diseases like tooth decay.

 By enacting good dietary principles through the consumption of a balanced diet and limiting the consumption of refined sugar, it is possible to avoid such dental diseases. 

Mountain Dew mouth highlights a society-wide issue that spans from children to the elderly. Health professionals, including dental practitioners and the policy makers, may need to acknowledge the impact of chronic diseases like tooth decay on the wider community.  

Continue Reading