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.
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.