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And, according to data Prof. Harris cites in her 2009 article, Mountain Dew is actually less acidic than Diet Coke.
That’s important because it’s acid that’s bad for teeth. But, say experts, soda is no worse in that capacity than a host of other beverages.
"This is any soda, any juice, any milk," said Dr. Maria Lopez-Howell, a dentist and consumer adviser for the American Dental Association, in comments on the HuffPost Live panel about the harm that repeated, continuous consumption of any acidic beverage can cause.
So it’s not that soda’s impact is any different than that of juice or milk.
What’s more, the link between soda consumption and cavities in children is tenuous at best. A 2001 study published by the Journal of Dental Research found an “absence of apparent effects of sugared soda consumption in younger people[.]”
Notably, soda consumption has been on the decline in the United States for more than a decade. Mountain Dew and its parent company, PepsiCo, know that to be true, as a recent Huffington Post headline, PepsiCo Struggling To Adapt To Declining U.S. Soda Consumption, makes clear.
What’s more, consider why people in places like West Virginia may choose soda or juice instead of water. They often don’t have access to fluoridated tap water. And they often fear their well water is polluted. Add to those factors poverty and lack of adequate dental insurance and it’s easy to see why tooth decay is rampant in Appalachia.
Taxing impoverished soda drinkers won’t improve their dental health. So what will?
Thankfully, tooth decay is as unfortunate as it is preventable. To start, there’s education and fluoridation.
Dentists have played a key role in efforts to prevent “bottle rot,” which occurs when parents put infants to bed with baby bottles to sip on overnight and the acids in the milk or juice rot the baby’s teeth.
So better dental health isn’t impossible. But it doesn’t begin with needlessly vilifying Mountain Dew. It doesn’t hinge on the pointless “fight against soda” being waged in this country. Rather, it involves people like dentists and parents and educators working together. That’s worth doing.