According to area dentists, one of the main culprits contributing to toothlessness in Central Appalachia is Mountain Dew soda (a PepsiCo product). Oral care practitioners are familiar with the term “Mountain Dew Mouth,” as the particular brand has far more acid and sugar in comparison to other sodas. Sugars and acid literally erode enamel and teeth over time, promoting cavities and tooth loss.
Area children are addicted to it, bathing their teeth in the highly-caffeinated sugary beverage every 20 minutes. It’s commonplace to see children gulping down a soda before bedtime, or parents supplying it to infants in baby bottles.
Dr. Edwin Smith, a dentist in Barbourville, Kentucky has invested $150,000 of his own money to build a Kids First Dental Care mobile clinic inside an 18-wheel truck. Smith offers free dental screenings and services in an attempt to combat the oral care crisis in the 16 eastern Kentucky counties he treks.
Smith as well as Dr. Stacie Moore-Martin of the Mud Creek Clinic in Grethel, Kentucky both agree the addiction to soda, Mountain Dew especially, is a contributor to rampant decay, according to ABC News.
Central Appalachia is primarily composed of coal producing states, regions of eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, western Virginia and southern West Virginia. The Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia (COHRA) has determined they hold the largest burden of oral health problems per capita in the entire US, making the association of toothlessness more of a fact than just an insensitive stereotypical notion.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) outlined the disparities in oral health in Appalachia, indicating in West Virginia alone in 2006, 31,800 tooth extractions were performed on children. By the age of 65, less than 50 percent of the elderly population in the area do not have any of their natural teeth remaining.
A report from the Department of Economics of West Virginia University reveals Central Appalachia suffers an unusually high rate of poverty. The research notes the lack of economic diversification and considers the region nonmetropolitan. The poverty rate exceeds the national average, in some included Kentucky counties by more than double.
Initially PepsiCo told ABC News in a statement the idea of a beverage being at all responsible for this level of oral decay was preposterous, suggesting instead to promote proper oral hygiene as a solution. Company representatives have since reached out to dentists working to resolve the serious problem of tooth decay in eastern Kentucky in an effort to help.
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