Earlier this week I appeared in a HuffPost Live debate on the topic of “Mountain Dew Mouth.”
The term blames soda in general—and Mountain Dew in particular—for the Appalachian “region's alarmingly high incidence of eroded brown teeth.”
It’s true that Appalachia boasts some very high rates of tooth decay. But is Mountain Dew or soda writ large to blame?
Claims of Mountain Dew Mouth gained national attention in 2009.
One of my fellow guests on HuffPost Live, Prof. Priscilla Norwood Harris of Appalachian Law School, wrote a law review article that year on the alleged phenomenon. The article, Undoing the Damage of the Dew, is an expansive look at the topic.
Prof. Harris concluded that if Pepsi won’t “do more,” then new regulations (including soda taxes) should follow.
A recent NPR article that revived the issue and precipitated this week’s HuffPost Live segment contextualizes the conversation about “Mountain Dew Mouth” as part of a larger “fight against soda” in America.
That’s the crux of what this conversation appears to be about. It appears to me to be just another battle in the public health community’s fight against soda.
The dental angle isn’t a new one.
In fact, the author of the recent NPR article, Eliza Barclay, refers to her own reporting on a study, published earlier this year in General Dentistry, in which she claims that soda drinkers’ “teeth could deteriorate so much that they look like the teeth of a methamphetamine or crack addict.”
Cracked, the humor publication, reviewed the same study and quickly concluded its claims were “B.S.”
The Mountain Dew Mouth debate is predicated on claims that people in Appalachia drink more soda than do Americans elsewhere and that Mountain Dew, a favorite there, is a particularly nefarious drink.
How do those hold up to scrutiny?
A June 2013 Men’s Health article, Capitals of Cola, lists Charleston, WV, in the heart of Appalachia, as one its “fizz-free towns”—places where soda is unpopular. None of the cities cited in the article as top per-capita soda consumers were located in Appalachia. Instead, America’s top ten soda-consuming cities are found in Texas, California, Western Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio.