The Big Gulp® and other supersized sodas – you have heard of them before and will no doubt hear of them ad nauseam into the future. The sweet drink that so refreshes on a hot day can carry more than you may have realized or bargained for when it comes to your teeth.
While in dental school, I had a biochemistry professor who exhorted us on the troubles of the carbonation in a soft drink. The term carbonation refers to the fact that carbon dioxide gas is infused into the drink. When you open the container, be it a can or bottle, a fizzy action occurs and thousands of little bubbles suddenly come to life.
Those little bubbles are the carbon dioxide gas escaping due to a change in the pressures from within the liquid to the atmosphere. When we ingest or swallow them, and carry the gas into our bodies, that wonderful feeling translates into carbonic acid. This change occurs very rapidly, and the body has to deal with this new, sudden change in pH.
The pH change challenges the body. It freaks out and says: Acid—dilute, dilute immediately. And it does so masterfully. The acid gets diluted, and calcium comes to the rescue to “buffer” the acid, making it weaker (increasing the pH towards normal or 7). So where does the calcium come from? Well, your calcium storehouses, of course, which are primarily in your bones.
One of the more readily available sources of calcium comes from the bones around your teeth. This is the alveolar process. Here, a very ready exchange of calcium out of the bone occurs, as well as into the bone when it is necessary to replenish it.
Imagine a soft drink habit where you have one of these drinks a day. If you have a calcium-deficient diet, you will begin to run into enough loss of the calcium to cause your bones (also around the teeth) to become noticeably weaker.