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Rotten truth about what prosecco does to your teeth: How the 'triple whammy' of acidic bubbles, alcohol and sugar are ruining smiles (34 Pics)

We tested prosecco and other popular drinks which have a reputation for rotting teeth, including a sports drink, an energy drink, cider and cola (examining the oft-repeated claim that a tooth dissolves if it’s left in a glass of cola overnight)

The test

Scientists at the Oral Health Foundation took seven healthy human teeth — a mixture of molars (used for grinding food) and incisors (used for cutting) — photographed them and placed each of them in a sterile test-tube.

The test-tubes were then filled with a different drink and monitored over 14 days. At the end of this period, experts analysed the impact on the enamel, which is the protective barrier covering each tooth.

Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body and made up of 96 per cent minerals, including calcium, phosphorous and magnesium. The principal mineral is called hydroxyapatite, which is calcium phosphate in crystalline form.

Dr Ben Atkins, a dentist and trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, explains that — with the exception of milk and water — the drinks being tested harbour known risks for decay. However, no one has ever examined how they rate against each other, and how badly they can rot human teeth under clinical conditions.

Sports drink 

Sugar content: approx 5 tsps (20g) per 250ml

Acidity level: High (pH 3.3)

So many gym-users have a sports drink to rehydrate and boost energy levels with sugar. But while muscles may benefit, their teeth will suffer.

Pictured: the tooth before the experiment, after 48 hours and after two weeks

The tooth surface here looks chalky white — indicating that the enamel has begun to decalcify, the first sign of erosion.
‘Sports drinks have relatively high levels of acid, which alongside sugar, can quickly lead to damage,’ says Dr Atkins.

Decay potential: 7/10

Energy drink

Sugar content: approx 6 tsps (24g) per 250ml

Acidity level: High (pH 3.1)

Energy drinks have become popular with young people after a night out. But in view of its action on enamel, they should think again.

‘You can see the effect of demineralisation here as the tooth has started to etch and flake away,’ Dr Atkins explains. ‘I am particularly worried about young people using energy drinks.

Pictured: the tooth before the experiment, after 48 hours and after two weeks

‘If they develop dental problems at a young age, they’re likely to have them for the rest of their lives.’

Decay potential: 8/10


Sugar content: approx 7 tsps (28g) per 250ml

Acidity level: High (pH 3.5)

Thanks to aggressive marketing of niche brands, cider has overtaken lager in popularity.

The effects on teeth, however, are obvious and worrying.

Pictured : the tooth before the experiment, after 48 hours and after two weeks

The photos show clearly how the tooth enamel has become severely decalcified — to the extent that the dentine (hard bony tissue inside the tooth) has become visible and discoloured at the top.

‘The acid in the cider has stripped away a lot of the enamel from the tooth,’ says Dr Atkins.

‘If this continues, extreme pain would be inevitable. In the worst cases, this could lead to extraction.’

Decay potential: 9/10


Sugar content: approx 1 tsp (4g) per 250ml

Acidity level: High (pH 3.25)

These photographs starkly reveal prosecco’s devastating effect on teeth.

Before the tooth is immersed, the enamel is white and shiny. But after two days, it’s discoloured and rough. And after two weeks, it’s clear the surface is beginning to dissolve. According to Dr Atkins, this is extreme ‘demineralisation’, in which the loss of calcium and other minerals, owing to the acidic environment, causes the tooth to crumble away.

This is ‘incredibly damaging and a totally irreversible reaction,’ he adds.

Pictured: the tooth before the experiment, after 48 hours and after two weeks

‘If I were to pick the tooth up, it would likely turn to a chalk-like powder in my hand. This could be extremely painful, leading to a need for extensive restoration or extraction.

‘Prosecco’s high sugar [and acid] content hits drinkers with a double whammy of erosion and decay.

So fears about the “prosecco smile” are well-founded. ‘We’ve proved it scientifically and it is genuinely worrying.’ In addition, every time we take a sip of a sugary drink, the naturally-occurring bacteria in our mouths feed on the sugar, producing plaque acid which attacks our teeth for up to an hour.

‘At Christmas, if we are sipping a drink throughout the day, our teeth are under constant attack,’ adds Dr Atkins.

Decay potential: 6/10


Sugar content: approx 6½ tsps (26g) per 250ml Acidity level: Very high (pH 2.5)

There have long been rumours that cola can dissolve a tooth in a short space of time. Our photos show there is some truth to this. ‘It has also been claimed that you can clean a car engine with cola and I would not be surprised if this was equally true,’ says Dr Atkins.

Pictured: the tooth before the experiment, after 48 hours and after two weeks

‘Cola’s effect on the tooth is extreme and shocking. Apart from the extensive staining, turning the tooth brown after only two days, it has also completely cracked in half owing to the huge extent of demineralisation which has made it weak.’

Dr Atkins doesn’t let his children drink cola. ‘The effects on young teeth can very quickly become extreme, devastating future oral health. With 12 spoons of sugar in a typical can of a cola-like drink, the decay potential is almost off the scale.’

Decay potential: 9/10


Sugar content: approx 3 tsps (12g) natural lactose per 250ml

Acidity level: Neutral (pH 6)

There was no change to the appearance of the tooth. Milk is a low to no-risk product for oral health, says Dr Atkins, because of its neutral pH level.

Pictured: the tooth before the experiment and after 48 hours

‘Most of us know that milk is good for our teeth and this experiment proves that fact,’ he says.

Decay potential 0/10


Again, there has been no change to the tooth owing to the neutral pH of water.

‘You could leave the tooth in the water for years and nothing would happen to it,’ says Dr Atkins. ‘Water is the best thing for your teeth alongside milk.

Pictured : the tooth before the experiment and after 48 hours

‘If you are looking to sip on something during the day, keep a bottle of water handy.’

Decay potential: 0/10

  • For more information, see www.dentalhealth.org

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