Soda’s Sneaky Attack: How Your Favorite Fizz Can Rough Up Teeth in Just 10 Minutes

The next time you get the urge to crack open your favorite soda, you might want to think again…

If the sugar wasn’t bad enough for myriad reasons, there’s the acidity. But, just how bad is it, really?

You see, enamel is that hard-white substance that forms the outer layer coating each and every one of your teeth. And it’s actually the hardest substance found in the human body, even stronger you’re than your bones.

Yet, as strong and durable as enamel is, it’s not invincible. In fact, as your dentist will tell you, two things have the power to seriously break down your enamel — acids and sugars.

Enamel is a whopping 96 percent mineral, which is what the experts say makes it so durable and capable of resisting damage. This is what allows enamel to act as a barrier, which protects the soft inner layers of your teeth.

But once your enamel is damaged, you can end up with dental problems ranging from stains and fractures to extreme sensitivity and cavities.

And every soda you drink is doing measurable damage…

For the first time, scientists have taken a peek at the nanoscale level to measure just how much enamel erosion occurs over time thanks to these dastardly beverages.

Soda etches teeth in just minutes

The research, performed at The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), used a cutting-edge method of applying atomic force microscopy to study just how certain beverages erode your tooth enamel on the nanoscale.

The team of scientists chose three commercially available popular beverages — Coca-Cola®, Sprite®, and Minute Maid® orange juice — to run their tests.

And here’s where it gets interesting… and just a bit gross…

They extracted one molar from each of five healthy volunteers. It’s true, each person said goodbye to a tooth in the name of science.

The team then immersed the teeth in these drinks over time in order to analyze the impacts on the enamel and to specifically monitor the “etching process” which is known for making the surface of teeth rougher. Using atomic microscopy, here’s what they found:

  • The surface roughness of the tooth enamel increased significantly as the immersion time increased.
  • The elastic modulus of the enamel surface (enamel’s ability to resist damage and deformation) decreased drastically.

In fact, the researchers discovered that after just 10 minutes of immersion in any of these sodas, a tooth’s enamel surface was five times rougher. And its elastic modulus was five times lower after only five minutes in the drinks.

Another interesting find was that previously scratched or damaged areas of the teeth became prime targets for new etching damage.

Of course, you’re not going to take a big sip of soda or orange juice and hold it in your mouth for 10 minutes. But you might want to assess how many sodas you drink in a day and consider the cumulative effect.

Protecting your enamel

This means that in order to preserve your tooth enamel, limiting the amount of acidic sugary drinks you consume should be your first step. That way you’re stopping the enemy at the gate.

But there’s one more thing that could be working against your pearly whites… and this time it’s an enemy from within — the pH level of your saliva.

See, saliva promotes the remineralization of your teeth, and like so many other changes we experience with age that aren’t always for the better, our saliva becomes more acidic the older we get. So, your own saliva could be hurting your teeth.

You can test your pH using pH strips, but there are a few telltale signs that indicate your mouth is leaning toward an unhealthy level of acidity that could degrade your tooth enamel, including:

  • Cavities. Many of us coast through life with few then are hit with them in our 40s and 50s.
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold drinks or foods.
  • Bad breath. And no one wants that.
  • A dry mouth.

Improving the pH of your saliva isn’t that hard. Start by adding more alkaline foods to your diet to help neutralize your body’s overall pH, like spinach, kale, celery, avocado, broccoli and cucumber.

Foods to eat less of, beyond sodas and other sugary drinks, include black coffee, dairy, eggs, meats and processed or canned foods since they all fall into the acid-spectrum.

Then make sure you stay hydrated. A dry mouth won’t make saliva on its own very well.

And lastly, don’t rush to brush your teeth right away if you slip up and have a soda in a moment of weakness. Your enamel will be vulnerable, so instead rinse your mouth with water (really well) and wait for at least a half-hour before brushing.

Just remember, when it comes to protecting your teeth and saving your enamel from nanoscale damage that can lead to cracking, chipping, stains and pain, it’s acid out and alkaline in.


  • Atomic force microscopy reveals nanoscale dental erosion from beverages — EurekAlert!
  • Tooth Enamel Erosion and Restoration — WebMD
  • How High-Alkaline Foods Benefit Your Teeth — Colgate
  • Alkaline Diets — WebMD