We put our teeth through a lot in our lifetime, including the hours we spend eating and drinking. The tooth surfaces must deal with a constantly changing environment. One area that sometimes gets overlooked when choosing our diet is the acidity in maybe causing to our teeth.
Enamel is the hardest substance found in the body but even this amazingly tough outer tooth layer can be damaged by a pH environment lower than 5.5. The pH 0 being the most acidic. If these harsh conditions occur frequently then the top layer can be eroded away over time.
The appearance of acid erosion differs from other types of tooth substance loss as it is smoother in appearance making it less obvious to spot. Here’s what to look out for:
- Saucer shaped depressions, wearing away of biting surfaces and edges that have a smooth shiny appearance.
- Thinner enamel or dentine which sometimes has a darker yellow/brown coloring.
- These visual symptoms are often accompanied by sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet stimulates
- The surface of the tooth can also feel different to the tongue and touch usually feeling rougher.
Causes include internal factors such as:
- Gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux. This can be caused by food/drink, smoking, pregnancy, and medical conditions such as hiatus hernia.
- Bulimia is eating disorder which causes frequent vomiting to control a person’s food intake. This causes the enamel to be in contact with strong acids in the stomach.
- Binge drinking and alcoholism can also induce regular vomiting. The acid in the stomach has a pH around 1.
- Foods include acidic fruit such as citrus fruits, apples, and tomatoes.
- Anything that has been pickled or preserved in vinegar is also a high risk.
- Drinks such as sodas, alcohol and fruit juices are obvious dangers but there are some hidden risks with people not realizing the acidic dangers. These might take you by surprise.
- Lemon slice in hot water. Often taken for its health benefits but the pH of lemon juice is around 2 so adding this to hot water almost creates hot acid. As a comparison the pH of soda usually sits around 2.5.
- Carbonated water has a pH of 3-4 which is often overlooked.
- Sport drinks and flavored waters.
Here what to do to help reduce and prevent loss of tooth surface:
- Avoid regular intake of food and drink that is acidic. If you're drinking something that is acidic then drinking through a straw can reduce the amount of contact, do not hold carbonated drinks in your mouth before swallowing. Eating the most acidic item first follow but something less acidic can help.
- Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day for 2 minutes with a soft manual brush or good quality electric toothbrush, preferably one that has a pressure feature.
- The American Dental Association recommends waiting 60 minutes after eating or drinking to brush your teeth as this can cause the softened enamel to be brushed away. The saliva will help return the pH levels but chewing sugar-free gum can also help this process.
- Visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly to ensure a healthy mouth and get tips and guidance for your home care. Also seek medical guidance for any of the internal issues that could be causing erosion.