Mountain Dew Mouth | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Mountain Dew Mouth

ABC's 20/20 is showing a special episode tonight at 9 PM CT called "A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains" which highlights poverty-stricken children of Appalachia. One of the many issues facing these children is rampant tooth decay and tooth loss. A Kentucky dentist, Dr. Edwin Smith, helps children in his area by offering free dental care in his mobile clinic. Dr. Smith blames a lot of the cavities he sees on excessive Mountain Dew consumption.

Central Appalachia is No. 1 in the nation in toothlessness. According to dentists, one of the main culprits is Mountain Dew soda. With 50 percent more caffeine than Coke or Pepsi, Mountain Dew seems to be used as a kind of anti-depressant for children in the hills.

Kids drink the soda in school, at football games and before going to bed at night. And drinking the sugary soda loaded with caffeine often starts early. Dentists speak about families who put soda in baby bottles.

"Other sodas, too," said Smith, "but Mountain Dew is unique because it has a lot of sugar and a lot of acid. If you're taking a drink every 20 minutes, that's like bathing the teeth in it all day."

"It's just rampant decay," adds Dr. Stacie Moore-Martin of the Mud Creek Clinic in Grethel, Ky. "People are addicted to Mountain Dew. It's terrible."

Pepsi, the makers of Mountain Dew, told ABC News in an initial statement that it's preposterous to blame soft drinks for dental decay, saying that raisins and cookies stay in the mouth longer. They added that a balanced diet and proper dental hygiene like flossing and brushing teeth after meals and snacks should prevent decay.

After a report on the topic aired on "Good Morning America" Thursday, Pepsi sent an additional statement saying that their products "consumed in moderation, can be part of a healthy, balanced diet."

They said the company is "continually expanding our offerings of healthier, more nutritious products" and that they "offer a wide range of sugar-free and caffeine-free products." They also said they are working with schools, non-profits and the government to educate people about healthier lifestyles. CLICK HERE for the full statement.

The dental dilemma in Kentucky is that nearly one out of every two of the state's children are enrolled in Medicaid, but barely a quarter of dentists accept the insurance. So for the Appalachian families on Medicaid, they often have few options when or if they want to see a dentist.

So, who's really to blame for "Mountain Dew Mouth"? Pepsi? The children who drink it? The parents? The dentists who don't accept Medicaid? Our health care system?

What do you think?

Previous Comments

ID
143563
Comment

Honestly? I really blame the parents. Well, the parents and perhaps the education system/healthcare system for not teaching healthy eating habits. The parents are the ones who buy this stuff for the kids, and the parents have the power to make changes at the schools as well. And putting it in baby bottles?! Shameful!!

Author
andi
Date
2009-02-13T12:56:17-06:00
ID
143564
Comment

I agree with you, Andi, up to a point. But parents can only teach their kids what they know, and if they don't understand good nutrition and have no access to healthy foods (a real problem in impoverished areas of the country), they don't teach and provide good nutrition for their children. It's a blind spot for many parents, especially the poor and uneducated, and blaming them for doing what they know to do (or can afford to do) is like blaming your dog for its fleas--not particularly productive. I think it's telling that parents are using Mountain Dew as an anti-depressant, by the way. My guess is that most of these folks don't have health insurance. And do schools still teach hygiene (they did when I was a kid), or have those classes disappeared like so many other programs? Like most health issues, I think there's plenty of blame to go around on this one, including companies designing and selling products that aren't good for anyone. No one benefits from drinking "empty calorie" sugar-laden soft drinks except the manufacturers (not even in moderation, as Pepsico claims), just like no one benefits from smoking except tobacco companies (and their lobbyists). Drinking sodas in moderation might be health neutral, but I don't imagine there are many (if any) actual health benefits. When you start pointing fingers, though, eventually you have to point to the person in the mirror. As a whole, consumers don't demand accountability from the companies we rely on to feed us. There are firms that put people--their health and well-being--ahead of profit margins, but they're few and far between.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-02-13T13:38:26-06:00
ID
143566
Comment

It's difficult for me to blame the soda manufacturer or industry. Reason being, if this logic was correct, then companies like Anheuser Busch could be blamed for DUI's and any injuries/fatalities that resulted from their alcohol consumption. The majority of Americans put things into their body that is not healthy. I like medium rare steak and a cold frosty beverage to go with it. I know it's not the best thing for me, but I like it. I think the key to this issue is moderation. Anything can be unhealthy if there is an overdose of it, including drinking water. Kids are going to eat candy and drink soda, but it should be in moderation. It's up to the parents to instill this discipline and the reasoning behind it. The parent-teacher relationship should dictate how the schools decide to implement their own strategies away from home.

Author
chip
Date
2009-02-13T14:33:59-06:00
ID
143567
Comment

Mountain Dew as the poor man's Ritalin. Those hill folk are resourceful you got to give 'em that. I have heard stories of parents giving their children Coca-Cola when it still contained cocaine because of it's "medicinal" effects. So that's a new twist on an old trick. What I don't get is why they in one paragraph say it's a generational thing, that maw and grandmaw had dentures and the kids just feel they will too, and in the next paragraph they blame the soft drink of choice. The soft drink or type of sweets isn't going to matter one bit if people neglect their dental health. They will still end up toothless. My mom used to tell me all the time if I drank too many sodas my teeth would fall out. So I don't think it's exactly a state secret that sugar causes cavities. I have to agree with andi and blame the parents for not being parents and saying those things that parents should say like don't run with scissors and if everyone pulled out their teeth with pliers would you pull yours out too? The story reminds me of an old joke. How do you know the toothbrush was invented in Appalachia? Because if it was invented anywhere else it would be called the teethbrush.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-02-13T15:15:04-06:00
ID
143570
Comment

Blaming a company because they make a product that's not the healthliest product in the world is like blaming a pencil for writing errors. People have a choice to buy it or not. They produce Mountian Dew(since the 1940's) and people buy end of story, it's not the companies duty to make sure you eat right or provide a product that is good for you. That's your choice. People need to quit blaming other people for their choices and blame themselves. WMartin- parents have put a little whiskey in babies bottles with the milk long before Coke was invented for "medicinal" effects..lol

Author
BubbaT
Date
2009-02-13T16:38:38-06:00
ID
143578
Comment

BubbaT, that analogy doesn't hold up. You're espousing an extremely outdated corporatist viewpoint that essentially says corporations can do whatever they want, produce whatever kind of garbage they want, and they have no responsibility whatsoever over how their products harm consumers. "Caveat emptor." That's pretty much what the tobacco companies said until investigations revealed that they know exactly how dangerous and addictive cigarettes are. In fact, they add chemicals to make them even more addictive. They just don't care. I'm not saying it's all Pepsico's fault, basically because I don't think any one person or thing is ever to blame for a complex problem, and I agree that laying blame isn't effective (including blaming the parents, by the way). But Pepsico is denying any responsibility for producing and heavily marketing Mountain Dew. "It's not our fault that people drink too much of our product!" Well, OK... how big do you think Pepsico's marketing budget is? Do you think that might have something to do with how much product they sell? I mean, isn't that the whole point of marketing and advertising? In the fight for "market share," companies use all kinds of powerful tactics to increase buying. You can't just say it's up to the consumer to make the right choice when companies spend billions to influence those choices, using what ever means necessary. I was in marketing half my life. I know the tactics and how effective they are. And sure, almost anything in excess can be unhealthy, but come on... defending Mountain Dew? Other than water and a little citrus flavor, is there one ingredient in Mountain Dew that's actually healthy? Would that be the 1.65 ounces of sugar per 12 ounces (drink 10 and you've ingested more than a pound of sugar), the 55 milligrams of caffeine, high-fructose corn syrup, sodium citrate, gum arabic, erythorbic acid, calcium disodium EDTA, brominated vegetable oil, yellow 5? I think companies should hold themselves accountable for their crappy products. Just because they've been making it for 70 years doesn't make it right. What is that? "We've always done it that way"? That's lame. Taking responsibility shouldn't exclude corporations, should it? (My mother put brandy in her baby bottles, by the way.)

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-02-13T18:57:07-06:00
ID
143580
Comment

Sure it holds up, people are responsible for their personal choices, not a company. If they were worried about being healthy they wouldn't be buying Mountain Dew in the first place.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2009-02-13T20:40:23-06:00
ID
143581
Comment

I think Bubba's advocating something called "Personal Responsibility". It's not Pepsi's fault people bathe in the stuff up there. They just sell it. One a day plus taking care of your teeth won't kill you. I'd also say that an attempt to legislate Corporate Responsibility is close to socialism or Communism.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-02-14T09:17:13-06:00
ID
143582
Comment

I am not saying that people [we] shouldn't take personal responsibility. I'm asking why you believe corporations *don't* have to take responsibility. Why do they get a pass from you and consumers don't? Sure, Iron, Pepsico isn't responsible for how people use their products, but shouldn't they take responsibility for producing crap in the first place? Shouldn't they take responsibility for the fact that they spend buckets of money to convince us to buy their crap? Advertising sells sex, power, freedom ... rarely is it straightforward enough to actually sell the product. The saying is that you sell the sizzle, not the steak. And we legislate corporate responsibility all the time, Ironghost, in the United States, and it's neither socialism or communism. We expect companies to deliver on their promises. We expect them to make safe cars and toys, for example, and for products not to break the first time we use them. We expect our food to be safe and fresh. That's why we have things like expiration dates and USDA inspections. Nutritional labeling is legislated. We legislate clean air and water to prevent corporations from fouling them. We expect products not to blow up or hurt people. When they do, companies that knowingly sell faulty, dangerous products routinely get sued. Consumers sue companies that don't take responsibility. Is it OK for the peanut butter company in Georgia to knowingly sell contaminated food? Of course not. I don't get y'all on this one at all. Corporations take responsibility--or we force them to--for their products all the time. Why is Pepsico immune?

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-02-14T13:04:13-06:00
ID
143583
Comment

What do you want Pepsi to do? Stop selling the product? Put a huge warning label on it? Personally, I could not face a world without Diet Coke.

Author
Jennifer2
Date
2009-02-14T14:16:01-06:00
ID
143584
Comment

Pepsico is selling a soft drink, they aren't sell a defective car, a lead painted toy, or tainted food. They are selling a soft drink, that's not good for you, not one that has product saftey issue. Anybody knows soft drinks are bad for you, but they buy them anyway. That's what they want. Did Mountain Dews ads ever mention it's a health drink? You want to regulate the amount of money they spend on commericals?

Author
BubbaT
Date
2009-02-14T14:34:23-06:00
ID
143590
Comment

[quote]Shouldn't they take responsibility for the fact that they spend buckets of money to convince us to buy their crap?[/quote] No. They're not producing crap.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-02-15T12:43:01-06:00
ID
143592
Comment

Just a thought... "Toothlessness" what a mouthful.? Anyway... I don't believe either that a product should be inherently health positive. A lot of products don't have any intrinsic positives. They are just for fun. Doesn't something that brings joy have a certain positive effect even if it's only mental? Abuse of almost anything can have negative consequences. I agree with Ronni that advertising can have an effect on consumer habits but advertising alone can not make a product popular. I am sure that Pepsico doesn't care if their juices and healthier drinks are the most popular or their soft drinks are. They just want to sell more of theirs than the competition sells. They would probably take pride in being the number one purveyor of healthy drinks and they would probably advertise it like crazy. It sounds to me like Pepsico is taking responsibility for their product. Aren't they saying to drink in moderation? They say they are working to promote healthier lifestyles. They have supposedly healthier options. I don't know what else they could do? I don't think they should close down out of guilt or discontinue production of any beverage with sugar and caffeine that may have the possibility of abuse. Some friends and I used to jump off a bridge in Simpson county into the river simply because it was fun. Was this healthy? No. Was this how the bridge was intended to be used? No. Did we need a warning sign to know that it could result in injury or death? No, but we did it anyway. The Moral of this little story? Sometimes, no matter how much Mom does asks, if your friends jump off a bridge will you? You might. And even water can kill you.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-02-15T13:46:06-06:00
ID
143757
Comment

PepsiCo to Support Dentist in Appalachia PepsiCo, the makers of Mountain Dew soda, told ABC News' Diane Sawyer that the company wants to work with a dentist in eastern Kentucky to help save children's teeth, after an ABC News report on the problem of tooth decay, or "Mountain Dew mouth," in the region. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi spoke to Sawyer Tuesday and expressed concern "about any overuse or misuse of the soda among small children." Nooyi said that PepsiCo will work to recruit more dentists in the region and will give Dr. Edwin Smith, a dentist in Barbourville, Ky., another van for his work.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2009-02-19T10:31:10-06:00
ID
143771
Comment

On a side note, Mountain Dew could be considered (and I would not be surprised that it is by some scholars)a cultural foodway of Appalachia. It's origins begin in Johnson City, Tennessee, around the 1940s- and the bottle featured a hillbilly on the front, with the all appropriate slogan of "It'll tickle your innards!" See http://www.tazewell-orange.com/tricity.html I'm certainly not denying its lack of nutritional value and high sugar content, but in many ways to this area, Mountain Dew is seen by its inhabitants more of a way of life and something to identify themselves as part of a particular culture with an unique history and system of beliefs (as even noted by David Sedaris when speaking of his time in North Carolina.) And to really simplify, all and all, cultural beliefs, especially those with such high levels of addictive caffeine, are hard to break. My perspective is based on my history with Mountain Dew - my family has been living in Appalachia (close to where Johnson City is today) since the early 1800s. I was raised on this drink, my grandmother had the old bottles featuring the hillbilly down in her basement, and it was ALWAYS around at family gatherings. And, to this day, I have had only one cavity. And, Dr. Enuf, even with its 10 vitamins and minerals, does not satisfy in the same way.

Author
danking
Date
2009-02-19T13:31:05-06:00
ID
143792
Comment

I've never heard of Dr. Enuf. What is it?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2009-02-20T10:33:39-06:00

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