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Oral Decay in Our Young: Mountain Dew Mouth in American Children

By HERWriter Guide
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American young with oral decay and Mountain Dew Mouth Auremar/PhotoSpin

I've read several articles and have seen a feature on the issue of "Mountain Dew Mouth" on television in the past few years.

The expression "Mountain Dew Mouth" has come primarily from the Appalachian areas of the United States.

Here, children are given this high-sugar, highly caffeinated soda pop by the time they can sit up alone and roll around on the floor.

Why Mountain Dew? Because it's popular in these regions, cheap and keeps children quiet as they suck it from baby bottles when they are as young as 6 months old.

Their parents remain (or prefer to remain) ignorant of the damage this soda is doing to their children, including allowing far too much caffeine in their systems, potential bone damage and above all, causing teeth to rot in toddlers as young as age two.

Lemon and lime drinks are particularly damaging to teeth and Mountain Dew has both flavors.

“Citric acid is in a lot of lemon- or lime-flavored beverages, and all carbonated beverages have phosphoric acid. Acids are what erode the teeth.”

Many dentists have made it their mission to educate parents and family members of the danger of exposing young children to such an unhealthy diet and have given their services for free to help thousands of toddlers and children a chance at good dental health.

They have removed rotting teeth and repaired gums and damaged teeth so that these children can grow into adults that enjoy good dental health.

But in many cases, these programs don't work if parents refuse to carry on good dental hygiene once the experts have gone and they are left to their own devices.

Experts note that Mountain Dew is cheaper than milk.

According to the organization Public Health Law Research, the issue of rotting teeth and mouths in areas of West Virginia is so bad that legal action may be necessary, in addition to education.

They are proposing:

•Implementation of an excise tax on soda.
West Virginia already has that but it’s not very high. The only state that really has the excise tax that makes money is Arkansas. Arkansas has an excise tax that brings in over $40 million a year which goes to their Medicaid program.

•Limiting purchase of the drinks with SNAP dollars.
SNAP is the equivalent of food stamps.

•Educating new and young mothers about dental health and best practices.

•Making dental care a part of the well-baby visit.
Many children in Appalachia may not see a dentist until they are five years old so this would allow for earlier dental care.

Proponents agree that most parents want what's best for their children. But they haven't been educated as to the real health risks of huge amounts of soda in their childrens' diets.

The assumption in many areas is that tooth loss at a relatively early age is normal.

Many children ranging from ages 3 to 7 years old in West Virginia already suffer from dental decay. And again, culturally, this is not considered abnormal.

Dental decay is a part of regular life in West Virginia. Health care providers want to see this cultural norm reversed.

EmpowHER has also looked at dental decay in depth and one article offers advice on what foods to stay away from, or at least use in great moderation.

Soda is included (especially citrus sodas like Mountain Dew), sugar (which soda is full of) and other items worth taking a look at.

You can find the list here:

Tell Us

Do you allow your children to drink soda pop or more than one serving of fruit juice per day? Do you thinking that avoiding these foods can lead to better oral health?


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. New Public Health. PHLR Annual Meeting: Legal Interventions to Reduce “Mountain Dew Mouth”. Web. Retrieved January 28th 2013.

EmpowHER.com. Dental and Oral Health. Top 10 Foods That Contribute to Tooth Decay. Web. Retrieved January 28th 2013. Top 10 Foods That Contribute to Tooth Decay.

Reviewed January 29, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments


Thanks for spreading the word about bad habits we are teaching our children. Good dental health needs to start at a young age.

January 29, 2013 - 8:01pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Marielaina Perrone DDS)

I brush my teeth once a month and have never had dental issues, the problem isn't with bad habits it's with eating food your body isn't designed to digest.

March 8, 2015 - 8:06am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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