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What is Mountain Dew Mouth?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2014
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In poorer regions of the United States, most notably the mountainous area known as Appalachia, proper dental care and dental health education is practically non-existent. Many residents have a significantly higher rate of tooth decay and tooth loss because of their poor dental hygiene and unchecked consumption of sugary foods and beverages. Dentists who work in Appalachia have coined a new name for the extreme instances of tooth decay caused primarily by drinking sugary sodas. They refer to the condition as Mountain Dew Mouth.

Mountain Dew Mouth owes its name to the carbonated soda Mountain Dew, a beverage produced by Pepsi Co. Although many other sodas contain significant amounts of sugar, caffeine and phosphoric acid, Mountain Dew contains one of the highest levels of caffeine of any soft drink. To mask the bitterness of the caffeine, the formula for Mountain Dew also calls for higher amounts of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Many children and adolescents in Appalachia routinely purchase large bottles of Mountain Dew and take frequent sips. According to dental health professionals, this would be the equivalent of bathing teeth in sugar for eight hours a day.

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The cumulative effect of this steady soda consumption is accelerated tooth decay. When dentists examined the teeth of adolescents who drank a steady diet of Mountain Dew, they observed a level of tooth decay more commonly found in senior citizens. Filling baby bottles with Mountain Dew and feeding it to young babies was also found to be a common practice. Some babies and toddlers have been diagnosed with Mountain Dew Mouth after dentists discovered 12 or more cavities in their first row of baby teeth.

Some experts suspect the sugary nature of Mountain Dew contributes to its appeal, and consequently to the increasing incidents of Mountain Dew Mouth. The higher caffeine levels in the beverage also provide a legal alternative to caffeine pills or anti-depressants. Although other brands of soft drinks have been mentioned as contributors to tooth decay, the majority of patients seen by dentists in mobile dental clinics report a distinct preference for Mountain Dew.

The standard treatment for this condition is to address the tooth decay with fillings, crowns or replacement teeth, but many dentists familiar with the condition also stress the need for proper education on the effects of sugar on teeth and a voluntary reduction of the amount of sugary beverages consumed during the day. Having more access to affordable dental care may also help residents in these poverty-stricken areas to slow or even reverse the effects of tooth decay caused by conditions such as Mountain Dew Mouth.

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Discuss this Article

anon943622
Post 32

I didn't know extreme sports were so popular in Appalachia.

anon942999
Post 31

Never heard of this before. I quit drinking soda because I'm fat! I never liked Mountain Dew, though. I even gave up my Diet Coke because I don't think it helps. Now I just drink water and very rarely, fruit juice.

anon933430
Post 30

It's not just what it does to your teeth. Your blood sugar gets out of whack with all these sugary drinks and that can lead to diabetes.

anon349391
Post 29

My daughter at the age of 22 had her teeth ruined by sipping regular Coca Cola all day long. She was bathing her teeth in sugar all day long. It's not just Mountain Dew. We have a tendency to sip colas all day long, whereas usually, I will drink a cup of water at a time, sometimes more. This rinses the mouth and teeth without the sugar and phosphoric acid.

anon330466
Post 25

I pretty much live on mountain dew 24/7 and I will most likely drink it until the day I die. I gave up on brushing because my teeth are so far gone. I look like a meth head. They are so rotten they're breaking off in whole and in pieces. I can't afford to go to a dentist and have them all pulled and I definitely can't afford dentures.

anon327394
Post 24

I am 28 years old and I drink 20-40 ounces of Mountain Dew per day. I brush my teeth once or twice per day and rinse with crest complete care two times per day. I use the whitening crest mouthwash occasionally at night instead of the complete care. I floss as well, but maybe five or 10 times a month.

My teeth are just a shade or two from white and I have had two or three cavities during my life.

MD voltage is my favorite beverage. Take care of your teeth and continue to enjoy Mountain Dew.

anon282735
Post 22

First off, Appalachia is not just the South. It is similarly stereotyped by the media and shares common cultural traits, but it extends as far north as New York and has its own, separate industrial makeup from the South.

Second, neither all, nor even the majority has this problem. What the article is saying is that this problem exists and is more common in Appalachia than elsewhere.

That said, the "practically nonexistent" of the first sentence is false and does show the ignorance and prejudice of either the author or the source the author used. While Appalachia has poorer healthcare access due to a lack of regional wealth, it is not a lack of access, but a lower ratio of health care services compared to population.

anon278722
Post 21

This article is pathetic. I live in the South and I can assure you we definitely have plenty of dentists and toothbrushes to go around. People in the South, along with anyone else in the world, drink Mountain Dew because it's awesome and has caffeine in it. To the person who said much of the South's economy still derives from mineworkers, there aren't that many left. If you people honestly think the South is still stuck in the damn forties, then you don't get out much.

anon273642
Post 20

I have to be honest. I was poor and often thirsty especially when it got warmer out. I started drinking Mountain Dew for horrible migraines I was getting, and I could often get it on sale for as low as 99 cents for a 2-liter bottle, sometimes less if I had a coupon. I was drinking, on average, two 2-liter bottles of Mountain Dew a day trying to keep the migraines away. Not only did it mess up my teeth, but it wreaked havoc on my body. When I went to the dentist at my last appointment, he actually asked me if I did meth and told me I was lying when I told him I didn't use drugs. Then his nurse apparently gave him the wrong medicine to give me and three days later, I got a ventilator pulled out of me. I was highly allergic to the lidocaine -- also noted on my chart in big red allergy tape on the front. I haven't been back to a dentist, since I've got a definite phobia now.

I did manage to get myself off the Mountain Dew with a combo of caffeine pills and an herbal tea pill called Arnica. Everyone told me I'd lose weight and feel so much better when I quit drinking Mountain Dew, but it's a lie. I still crave it so bad sometimes and I've been off it nearly a year now. I quit cold turkey.

Also, I do brush my teeth two times a day. Well, I did. I've got so many holes and broken teeth now, the best I can do is a Water Pic. It just hurts too much to brush. I definitely have a major case of Mountain Dew mouth. I have had a couple of teeth abscess and had to be on antibiotics and get the bacteria sucked out in the hospital. I definitely don't recommend giving Mountain Dew to kids, not even on special trips to Taco Bell or another take out place, because it definitely is addictive.

anon259160
Post 19

What this article fails to mention is why the people in Appalachia drink so much Mountain Dew. It comes from two causes.

1. It is cheap. Sometimes, it is cheaper than milk and even water. Economic conditions in Appalachia are worse than in many other areas in the US.

2. The energy. Appalachia is still dependent on jobs in mines, not to mention in the lower services, most of which require more energy. People need the pick me up that Mountain Dew provides.

anon249535
Post 18

I'm from Appalachia and we do go to the dentist regularly and we don't go around drinking Mountain Dew all day every day (we mountain folk even know how to brush our teeth). It's horrible to imagine that people honestly think that we don't know what hygiene is.

anon239747
Post 17

I'm surprised that so many feel they need to defend MD. Does anyone argue with the idea that sugar combined with bacteria causes decay? The eight hour sugar bath is not a question of quantity, but of duration or time of exposure.

If you sip a little sugar solution every few minutes all day, it may not require much volume to produce an eight hour sugar bath. The Dew mouth syndrome can be caused by things other than MD. It can also be caused by sugared coffee sipped in small amounts all day, or from sugar breath mints used all day.

If you ate the whole bag of M&M's all at once there would be less risk of decay than eating one M&M every 10 minutes until the bag was gone.

It doesn't require gallons of any sugar sweetened liquid to create an eight hour sugar bath as described in the article.

anon213870
Post 16

So, then what does the narcoleptic person do when the medications aren't working as effectively as they should? I've also been told that the medications given for narcolepsy (i.e., Modafinil) causes the patient's tooth enamel to erode because of dry mouth.

anon209289
Post 15

If a child is too young to drive and/or too young to work a paying job, then the only way they are going to be able to purchase excessive quantities of Mountain Dew is if their parents allow it. The parents who are upset about the accelerated tooth decay going on in their children's mouths are the same ones who drive their kids to the store and/or purchase it for them.

I can't imagine any young person under the age of 15 or so having the foresight to purchase extra bottles of MD in order to build a back-stock, either, if their parents have started refusing to buy it. Parental education is the key to keeping Mountain Dew Mouth in check. Parents should know that caffeine really can stunt a child's growth and lead to real health issues.

anon185489
Post 14

Look, this article is extremely over dramatic.

If you drink a can of mountain dew once every few days (like most normal people) and you brush your teeth twice a day, you won't suffer even the slightest inconvenience from doing so, your teeth will be fine.

Obviously, if you drink two litres of it a day and don't bush your teeth, then it is a real problem. But what percentage of soft drink drinkers drink that much?

Everyone I know, or most people at least just have a can every few days, or at the most a can a day.

anon176142
Post 13

I must say the area where i am blessed to work in is rough enough. i believe that Mountain Dew has played a major part in the destruction of a lot of of mouths due to it being sold at much cheaper prices and lack of education on the matter.

anon163341
Post 12

I have consumed two or three cans of Mountain Dew a day for years. I have great looking teeth because I take care of them! An 8 hour bath in sugar? Well yes, if you are drinking liters of Mountain Dew for 8 hours straight. So, we might as well say my teeth are bathing in bacteria 24 hours a day. Just sounds bad if you word it that way.

I agree with the possible addictive nature. I too, get headaches and yearn for it if I know I can't have it. Moral of the story: Brush your teeth and keep drinking mountain dew.

anon121654
Post 10

For you non-believers: The amount of disbelief or more "denial" than anything, is amazing to me.

My son just had an incident in the hospital. He had an abscessed tooth, which turned into an emergency. He had emergency surgery and was on life support. Luckily he is recovering now, however his very trained, highly skilled and knowledgeable maxillofacial/oral surgeon doctor at his very well-known hospital diagnosed him with "Mountain Dew mouth" so believe me it is real.

But stay in denial all you want. Good luck. And if Mt Dew is doing this to teeth, what is it doing to the rest of your body?

anon97850
Post 8

This is true, I'm sorry to say. I'm not a dentist, I'm a regular Joe with a preference for Mountain Dew. I had perfect teeth until I was 14, and started to drink an obnoxious amount of the soda. I'm twenty, I brushed my teeth pretty well until I was 16 and my teeth were going to crap anyway. I'm 20, now, and they all have to come out. This isn't a scare tactic, this holds a lot of truth, and I can even send you a picture of my teeth.

anon95011
Post 7

I hate it when I read articles, because the majority of the voices are ignorant about what the article is saying.

#2: How do you know that 'fact'? As well as with the addictive nature of the caffeine and sugar in Mountain Dew (which is also 'cheap') combined with almost no knowledge of oral care. I would say that it is the biggest factor in this issue. You say that these people either 'choose to' or 'are too lazy' when giving their babies MD versus anything else, but if it's seen as a calmant, or something 'good' for the older people, it makes sense that they would give it to their babes as well. Education is key in these issues.

#3: You also brush your teeth fairly regularly and eat a decent diet, right? Though I'm sure you'd say otherwise to be contrary.

#5: Did you see the 'routinely purchase large bottles' part of the article? This means that the people in this area are buying at least a two liter a day, if not more.

anon89553
Post 6

I am a dental hygienist of 23 years and yes, it does exist. In my area of the country we call it Mountain Dew Syndrome. In fact, this week I saw a 15 year old boy who drinks Mountain Dew all day and 14 different areas of decay were diagnosed at his appointment. I have seen this over and over again.

Patients will drink Mountain Dew and the decay can be so extensive that the teeth may be unable to be repaired and need to be extracted. The loss of one tooth to Mountain Dew is too many.

anon84369
Post 5

This is just a scare to get people to quit drinking Mt. Dew. Just like anything, sugar does damage to your teeth and promotes weight gain if inactive, but nothing like taking a sugar bath for eight hours. That is absolutely ridiculous. Mountain Dew is bad for you. More than other drinks. But is nothing like described above.

anon81270
Post 4

actually there was a special on 2020 or 60 minutes that was only on Mountain Dew Mouth and there were many dentists and scientist involved with the interview and research process on this odd phenomenon.

anon65928
Post 3

This is true when it comes down to it; it is the person's choice whether to choose mountain dew over any other soft drinks.

But I do believe that there is something in mountain dew that causes you to become severely addicted, to the point where headaches and other health problems occur when you do not have it in your system.

I am 24 years old and I have drunk mountain dew for as long as I can remember. I am very unhealthy, and my teeth are actually just fine, which is very weird! But yes, mountain dew is terribly addictive and I would love to stop drinking it, but when I do I have a lot of side effects. I personally think that the makers put something in the beverage to make people come back. If not, then explain why so many people are drinking it and can't stop! Raa 2010

anon54494
Post 2

This is dumb... I know for a fact that a name such as "Mountain Dew Mouth" was not created by dentists within the Appalachia. Professionals would not choose to name something with that type of ignorant classification. The name originated from somewhere outside of the mountains, with an attempt to 'raise' money for those in need.

I know this: Mountain Dew, and other things, are a key to tooth decay in the Appalachia. I have seen this area, and there are plenty stores that offer water, soda and many other drinks, just like stores anywhere else. The people who may feed their babies mountain dew, only do it because they either choose to, or they're too lazy to go purchase what they need.

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