Study claims diet soda is as damaging to teeth as meth and cocaine

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Be honest with yourself. How much diet soda do you drink in a day?

"I started drinking soda as a teenager and probably have one or two a day," said Steve Gilbert, as he filled up with some diet soda at a local gas station.

While some have sworn off cool carbonated beverages, others fill up with abandon. We asked Gilbert if he ever thinks about what he's sipping?

"I probably do worry about the chemicals in diet soda but I'm thinking more about in my stomach the acids there rather than on my teeth," he said.

Maybe he should. According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, diet soda is as bad for your teeth as hard drugs like meth and cocaine.  The report focused on a woman in her 30's who drank two liters of soda a day.

That may sound like a lot, but two liters is roughly 67 ounces. If you drink one 32 ounce drink in the morning, and another in the afternoon, you're close to that mark. You can easily pass it if you're drinking anything larger, like a 44 ounce diet beverage.

Dr. Lee Weinstein is a Scottsdale dentist whose studied diet pop's damage.

"In the dental world, this is stuff that we've known for years and years and years," he said.

While he's not surprised, his patients were.

"...And to think we're drinking diet soda so it's all good, but it turns out it's not!" said Chris Mitchell, who brought his two daughters into Dr. Weinstein's for their check-ups.  

"They have citric acid in them, they have phosphoric acid in them, and they are erosive," said the doctor. "You do that over an extended period of time, that will erode your teeth."

It's not pretty, but it's possible if you're drinking gallons a week and you don't see a dentist. But as with many things, the doctor said you can drink soda diet in moderation.

Gilbert is counting on that to keep his mouth healthy.

"I don't sense any teeth decay, maybe other people feel differently but, I think they're okay."

Critics of the study, including the American Beverage Association, say it's irresponsible to compare diet soda damage to meth, and say that with good dental hygiene and a healthy diet, your mouth should be healthy.

Dr. Weinstein says drinking soda through a straw, and sipping water or chewing gum after you drink diet soda can eliminate some of the acidity after you're done drinking.