For nearly a decade, Michael Sheridan of Ashbourne, County Meath, Ireland, suffered in silence, hiding his smile and his teeth from friends, family and the world. That’s because Sheridan was hiding a painful secret: badly decaying teeth. Twenty-seven of them, to be exact – and that’s exactly how many Sheridan’s dentist, Dr. David Murnaghan, ended up pulling from Sheridan’s mouth.
So, how did such a young man develop such serious tooth decay? Sheridan blames his addiction to sugary soda. In fact, Sheridan estimates he drank over 6 liters of soda daily – that’s over 31 servings in one day! Couple that with improper oral hygiene, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Wexford, Pennsylvania, dentist Dr. Alexandra George says while cases this serious are rare, Sheridan’s serves as a cautionary tale to those who think sugary drinks aren’t dangerous.
“You can quite clearly see the impact all that sugar can have on your mouth if not properly cleaned off, but more than that, it also shows how out of hand your oral health can get if you avoid going to the dentist,” she says.
Sheridan says he avoided treatment for almost 10 years because he was afraid of being told he needed to give up his soda habit, even though that habit cost him a mouthful of teeth.
“If the foods you eat and drink start causing health problems as serious as they were in this case, that’s a huge red flag that there’s a problem,” says George. “The food you eat should not be harming your health, and if you’re willing to sacrifice your health to keep consuming it, that’s a sign of addiction.”
George says drinking an occasional soft drink or sweetened beverage shouldn’t be a problem for most people, provided they properly care for their teeth afterward.
“If you drink soda, make sure you brush and floss your teeth afterward, because the bacteria that cause cavities thrive on sugar. If you can’t get to a toothbrush, rinse your mouth with water when you’re done drinking, or chew a stick of sugarless gum for 20 minutes,” she says.
Sheridan says he is now “delighted” to have the decayed teeth out, and will be undergoing dental implant surgery to replace them in the coming months. He is also working with a nutritionist to help develop healthy eating habits so he can break his addiction to soda once and for all.
“If you find yourself struggling to give up certain foods, don’t be ashamed – reach out to someone you trust for help, even your dentist. If we can’t help you, we can refer you to someone who can. It’s not worth sacrificing your well-being for a drink,” George says.