(WNCT/WRIC) — From a young age we’ve been warned of the damage that can be caused to your teeth by sugary drinks due to their combination of sugars, carbonation, and acids. The term ‘Mountain Dew Mouth’ refers specifically to tooth decay caused by the frequent consumption of soft drinks.

A study by NextSmileDental.com conducted a survey of 5,400 respondents and discovered that 71 percent of Virginians admit that they have delayed dental check-ups over the pandemic due to the worry of contracting COVID-19.

Interestingly, this concept is common in the Appalachian region of the U.S., where 98 percent of people experience tooth decay before the age of 44. Moreover, 77 percent of Virginians said they’ve also increased their consumption of sugary drinks since the start of the pandemic.

Those factors put Virginians in sixth place nationally to have developed ‘Cola Cavities’ since the start of the pandemic. Louisianans ranked highest in the study, compared to Rhode Islanders who came bottom. Interestingly, over half of the Appalachian states — including West Virginia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas — ranked within the top 15 places of this study.

Soft drinks typically contain around 11 teaspoons of sugar per 12-fluid ounce. They also contain citric acid, which adds another risk to the teeth. A triple combination of acids, sugar and carbonation can weaken tooth enamel, which is the protective covering over the teeth. This combination also encourages the growth of mouth bacteria and without enamel protection, these can cause serious damage.

Of course, preventing these kinds of dental problems is usually a matter of cutting down on sugary drinks and food, and seeing a dentist regularly for check-ups. If you’re unable to kick the habit, however, there are some ways to reduce the risk of developing this type of tooth damage:

Maintain a healthy diet

Replace soda with a better alternative like water for optimal hydration and ease on your teeth.

Try to keep acidic foods to a minimum if you have sensitive teeth and remember that a healthy diet benefits not only your body but your teeth as well.

Drink water

Drinking enough water after consuming a sugary beverage can help reduce the acidity that your teeth are exposed to.

Sipping on sugary drinks throughout the day, rather than downing them quickly, can also reduce this acidity as it bathes the teeth in a steadier stream of carbonation, sugars, and acids.

Wait an hour before brushing your teeth

Some experts suggest that brushing your teeth immediately after drinking soda may cause even more damage, as the enamel is vulnerable in the time after being exposed to acids.

Therefore, it’s recommended that you wait at least an hour after drinking soda or sugary drinks before brushing.