Nugget of Knowledge: Cola-Cola urban legend

A tooth won't dissolve in Coca-Cola overnight

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The old urban legend says a tooth left in a glass of Coca-Cola will dissolve in a day or two.

No, it won’t,

Coca-Cola will not dissolve a tooth or a nail, a penny or a piece of meat overnight, or even in days.

Coca-Cola contains citric, phosphoric and carbonic acids which will eventually dissolve items such as teeth given enough time,  but so will orange juice. Our digestive system copes with these acids quite easily.

Besides, we don’t hold liquid in our mouths for days at a time. They wash over our teeth very briefly, and we swallow them. The enamel and saliva protect us.

But where did this idea begin? Who said Cola dissolves teeth?

In the fall of 1950, a Cornell University professor named Clive McCay, a nutritionist, testified in the U.S. House of Representatives that the sugar in Coke caused cavities. He gave a vivid account that instantly became part of folklore — a tooth left in a glass of Coca-Cola would soften and begin to dissolve in a period of two days.

Coca-Cola’s top chemist, Orville May, said anything containing sugar and phosphoric acid — orange juice, for example — would dissolve teeth over a period of time.

Did you miss an episode of Daybreak or want to re-visit a previous ‘Nugget’? View previous ‘Nugget of Knowledge’ entries on

If you have an idea for a ‘Nugget of Knowledge,’ send your idea in an email to