A recent report
by Diane Sawyer seen on ABC's 20/20 February 13, 2009, exposed an alarming realization regarding the rate of tooth decay in the innocent children that call Kentucky's central Appalachia mountains their home. It is the opinion of many dentists in the area that Mountain Dew is the leading cause of rampent tooth decay
found in the mouths of children in the area. This type of decay in children will potentially lead to toothlessness as an adult. Referred to as "an epidemic" when it comes to toothlessness, this particular region of the United States has been found to have one in ten people without any natural teeth. "Mountain Dew Mouth" as it has been aptly named by dentists, is caused by the abundance of acid found in the popular soda. A 20 oz bottle of Mountain Dew contains 19 teaspoons of sugar and 93 milligrams of caffeine. Dentists do agree that any soda will cause acid erosion in the teeth, but Dr. Edwin Smith revealed to Diane Sawyer that Mountain Dew is "unique," adding "it has a lot of sugar and a lot of acid." Dr. Smith, founder of “Kids First Dental“
provides school-based, free dental care, in a mobile dental office that brings the dental office directly to 16 eastern Kentucky counties.
We know that sugar is the fuel that feeds the bacteria that forms plaque
on the teeth causing tooth decay, but why is soda identified as being responsible for this excessive tooth decay, especially in children? I was alarmed to learn from the report that soda is put into baby bottles and “sippy” cups in place of milk, or even water, and that soda namely Mountain Dew is sipped constantly throughout the day "bathing" the teeth in sugar, and is carried around in large bottles at school especially during lunch time. Dr. Moore-Martin, a dentist, believes that "people are addicted to Mountain Dew," a "terrible" reality for many people in the area.
I am fully and compassionately aware that poverty is a realization for many people, more notably the families documented in the report. What I do not understand is how the use of soda in this manner is justified; by anyone, including parents of young children? Milk certainly does not cost a fortune, in fact where I live a case of 12 soda cans costs more than a gallon of milk. Don't get me wrong, milk used irresponsibly in a bottle or sippy cup will cause rampant tooth decay, but at least there is a nutritional value in milk that is essential to growing little bodies. I do, however, strongly believe it is the responsibility of the company that produces the soda, to educate people on their products and its intended use. Perhaps placing a label that clearly indicates the recommended daily limit and age restrictions of each product will prompt people to reconsider how soda is used as a beverage. That being said, it is ultimately the hope of dentists and dental professionals alike that by educating parents and caregivers on the importance of brushing and flossing, providing a well balanced diet, and remembering that healthy baby teeth are a vital necessity for children, will one day reduce the rate of this type of decay and cause a drop in the number of toothless people in the United States as a whole.
If you would like more information on ways you can help the “Children of the Mountains” ABC News has a list of charities that are in place, ready to accept your donation.