According to the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, weight loss was the No. 1 New Year’s resolution for Americans in both 2012 and 2013. Further, a 2011 study from the independent market research firm Market data Enterprises, “The U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market,” showed that Americans spent nearly $61 billion on weight loss products in 2011.
Some of that money goes to companies that create and promote these products, which include juice cleanses, diet drinks, energy bars, sports drinks, and meal replacement shakes. Consumers are easily enticed by promises that make getting healthy seem both easy and delicious.
However, health professionals warn, many of these products fail to produce permanent weight loss or health benefits, and some of these diets and products actually may be harmful to a person’s health—including his or her oral health.
Meal replacement drinks aren’t the only method that some Americans use to drop a few extra pounds. Many seeking to reduce calories often turn to diet soft drinks. Compared to regular, sugar-sweetened sodas, which contain about 140 calories per 12 ounces, zero-calorie diet drinks may seem like an attractive alternative. Unfortunately, carbonated drinks, whether sweetened with sugar or sugar substitutes, are often highly acidic (with a pH of approximately 2.7), which, dentists know, means that their chronic consumption can cause serious damage to oral health.
What many people don’t know is that citric and phosphoric acids—which are used as flavor enhancers and preservatives in soda—can severely damage their teeth.
All general dentists have patients who consume diet sodas, and many know that oral health problems arise when patients drink these acidic beverages all day long, effectively bathing the oral cavity in acid without a break.
Energy and sports drinks
Inundated with sophisticated marketing campaigns, many people have eschewed soda in favor of energy and sports drinks—drinks they believe are healthier alternatives. According to the Jan. 29, 2013, report “Energy Drinks and Shots: U.S. Market Trends,” from Packaged Facts (a division of Market Research Group LLC), energy drinks are the fastest-growing segment of the beverage industry, with sales of more than $12.5 billion in 2012. They are especially popular among teenagers and young adults, who believe the drinks help them stay awake or perform better physically. Many add them to their diet when they start ambitious exercise regimens. Whether they are diet or sugar-sweetened, these drinks tend to be highly acidic.
The challenge of diagnosis
The oral health effects of some weight loss products and health trends may cause difficulty during diagnosis and treatment planning. For dentists, one of the principal challenges in treating erosion from these substances is early detection. As a complicated, multifactorial event, erosion can be difficult to detect visually, especially in its early stages, when changes may be subtle.
Preventive care, patient education
Diet and its effects on dental health are a growing concern for dentists, many of whom have witnessed the destructive effects of popular diet fads and drinks on their patients’ teeth.
If a dentist does learn that a patient’s diet includes highly acidic food or drinks, whether related to dieting products or not, the dentist can help that patient avoid serious problems by providing information and advice. Because a surprising number of patients are unaware of the dangers that acids pose to their teeth, telling them about these risks and suggesting alternatives, such as switching from diet soda to plain water, can go a long way to preventing damage and improving oral health. Further, general dentists who are educated about these various diet methods and products will have a better idea of what their patients are actually consuming.
This is an excerpt from original article.
Author: Claire Altschuler
Published in AGD Impact, 2014
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