In the age of TikTok, it only takes one viral video for hundreds of thousands of people to begin trying their hand at any array of “hacks”, whether it’s a makeup tip, a skin-care secret or a must-try recipe. We’ve seen it with everything from baked feta pasta recipes to at-home teeth whitening and, now, the latest subject of TikTok fame is the “dirty soda” mocktail. Before you mix up the concoction for yourself, see what some of our most trusted dentists have to say about what this sugary drink could be doing to your oral health.
What is the ‘Dirty Soda’ trend?
Originally popularized as an alcohol alternative for the large Mormon population in the Midwest, the dirty soda mocktail is an extra-sweet combination of diet soda, coconut syrup, lime juice and half-and-half. The drink has continued to gain popularity on social media in recent years, specifically as a result of celebrity endorsements like that of pop-singer, Olivia Rodrigo, who posted an Instagram photo in 2020 holding a Styrofoam cup from Swig—a chain restaurant known for selling dirty sodas in their signature styrofoam holder. Since then, this extra sweet beverage has amassed over 75 million views on TikTok and has viewers everywhere running to their local grocery store for cola and creamer to give the treat a try.
What dentists have to say:
“I have seen dirty sodas gain popularity in the last couple of years and have tried several different variations myself, and I think they’re delicious,” admits Los Altos, CA cosmetic dentist, Joseph Field, DDS. “But, just like any drink loaded with sugar, there is no redeeming nutritional value for these sodas,” he continues. “When you combine the pH-altering effects of the soda with the added sugary ingredients to make the drink ‘dirty’ it’s a terrible combination for your health and certainly for your teeth,” Dr. Field explains. “The impact on your teeth will degrade your enamel which can increase the risk of decay, sensitivity and general breakdown.”
Atlanta cosmetic dentist Ronald Goldstein, DDS adds that it is not just one’s oral health that is at risk by consuming these dirty drinks. “The ‘dirty soda’ would have less effect on oral health than general health because it does not remain in the mouth to do damage like hard or gummy candy,” he explains. “Hard, sugary candy tends to be held in the mouth much longer and can damage teeth through both decay and acid erosion since people tend to keep it between their back teeth where the damage can take place.” Dr. Goldstein urges viewers to consider the overall health effects, not just oral health effects, of these sugar-loaded drinks before they consume, as “there is no doubt that ‘dirty sodas’ consumed over a long period of time can lead to raised blood sugar levels which can contribute to multiple overall health problems.”
For those of us who do crave that sugary fix from a delicious dirty soda from time to time, don’t worry; there is no need to go cold turkey out of fear. According to Dr. Field, the moderation approach is perfectly applicable here. “For those who drink these beverages I advise to take the ‘everything in moderation’ approach. Limit your intake of these drinks as much as possible and try to avoid sipping these over an extended period of time as this doesn’t give your mouth a chance to buffer the pH impact of the soda on the teeth.” He also suggests drinking water during or after consuming a dirty soda or other such sugary beverages to help reset your oral pH.
The bottom line:
For those of us with a sweet tooth, myself included, it can be hard not to immediately jump on the opportunity to try a trending new dessert. But, all of our dentists can agree that there are many health factors to consider before consuming something with such high sugar content. This it is not to say that we should refrain completely from trying a dirty soda or any trending TikTok beverage from time to time, but to consider whether or not these treats will be sweet to our teeth before we let the sweet tooth win.
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