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Obesity or Diabetes,Soda is driving the most common chronic disease in the world.

As more municipalities consider levying a soda tax—Philadelphia is the latest—legislators should consider the impact of not just obesity and diabetes, but rampant tooth decay.


Tooth decay and cavities, collectively called “dental caries,” is the world’s number one chronic disease, according to a 2010 study.
Tooth issues are especially acute in children: In the US, more than
half of children ages 6-8 year olds had dental caries in 2011-2012, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. But adults are suffering too. More than a quarter of Americans ages 20-44 had untreated dental caries in the same period.


Dental caries cause problems far beyond the mouth, Dr. Karen
Sokal-Gutierrez, a clinical professor at University of California,
Berkeley, told Quartz. Mouth pain can lead to malnutrition and loss
of sleep. For children, this can translate into less focus at school,
and even lower attendance, as a 2011 study found. “That’s also
reducing their educational potential,” she says, leading to a reduction
in their “future economic potential.” Tooth decay in adults has also
been linked to heart disease and preterm births.


While
sugar has long been recognized as a source of tooth decay, when it
comes in the form of soda, it presents a double threat. Bacteria in the
mouth feed on sugar, producing acids that damage tooth enamel and lead
to cavities. Soda, though, is already acidic. “The sugar and acid
together are like a double whammy to a tooth,” Mary Hayes, spokesperson
for the American Dental Association and pediatric dentist, told Quartz.
(Diet soda is still acidic and, therefore, not protective against tooth
decay.)


It’s not just that sodas lead to tooth decay, Marion Nestle writes in her book Soda Politics; they are “a principle cause.” (emphasis hers) She cites several studies, including a 2012 meta-analysis in PLoS One
that found consumption of soft drinks “was associated with about 2.4
fold risk of dental erosion,” significantly higher than the other risk
factors including juice (0.90 fold risk), sports drinks (1.58 fold) and
milk (0.67 fold).


Regular
flossing and toothbrushing are important, says Sokal-Gutierrez, but
can’t undo the harm caused by continuously sipping soda over extended
periods of time. “No amount of daily toothbrushing and trips to the
dentist every six months is going to stop the process,” she says.


Soda sales are declining in the US,
but 1 in 3 adults still drink a sugar-sweetened beverage, including
soda, fruit juice, sweet tea and energy drinks, at least once each day,
according to a recent report from the CDC.


The
American Beverage Association, which represents major soda makers, told
Quartz that “it is inaccurate to single out one small part of the diet
as a unique driver of dental health challenges,” citing genetics, diet
and oral hygiene habits as other factors. In her book, Nestle answers:


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