Combat acid attack on teeth
Our teeth work hard throughout life and don’t get much of a rest. They endure incredible forces as they chew and grind our food.
The hard-protective layer on the outer surface of the tooth is called enamel. Frequent or constant high levels of acid over the teeth can strip away the enamel to expose the softer structure beneath, called dentine. When dentine is exposed the tooth can become sensitive or painful.
Saliva plays a critical function in maintaining oral health, helping to dilute and neutralise acids in the mouth and releasing protective minerals such as calcium and phosphorus that help re-mineralise the enamel. Consuming high volumes of acidic foods or beverages can weaken or dissolve the enamel over time causing irreversible structural damage. We call this tooth erosion.
Signs of tooth erosion
- Tooth sensitivity: too hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks
- Changed shape of teeth or fillings or teeth look flattened
- Change in tooth colour
Causes of tooth erosion
- Soft drinks: carbonated fizzy drinks (sugar free and regular), energy/sports drinks, fruit juices, lemon water, kombucha and tomato juice
- Fresh fruits: oranges, tangerines, plums, pineapples, grapefruits, tomatoes, limes and lemons
- Other foods: dried fruits, fruit jams, vinegar-based foods such as pickled vegetables and some salad dressings
- Medications: anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, chewable vitamin C tablets and asthma medications
- Digestive problems: gastric reflux, chronic vomiting, morning sickness, bulimia, hiatus hernia or peptic ulcer
- Chlorine: highly chlorinated water in swimming pools
How to reduce your risk
- Reduce the amount or frequency of sports drinks, carbonated drinks, juices you consume. Drink through a straw to reduce acid contact to the teeth, placing the straw well behind the front teeth, mid tongue.
- Consume acidic drinks quickly to reduce the acid exposure time.
- When drinking alcohol over a long period of time have a glass of water along-side your beverage to sip and dilute the acids from the alcohol.
- Immediately after consuming acidic food or drinks rinse your mouth with water or milk or eat a piece of cheese. Dairy and other calcium-rich foods can help neutralise acids.
- Wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after drinking or eating acidic foods. This gives your saliva a chance to neutralise acids and re-harden your enamel. Always use a soft bristle toothbrush.
- Eat acidic foods like tomatoes and fruits as part of a meal, not on their own.
- After reflux or vomiting or using an Asthma inhaler, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.
- Use specialist dental products high in fluoride to help strengthen your teeth
- Popular effervescent vitamin C packets, gummies or chewable vitamins have high concentrations of ascorbic acid. Swallow them whole or heavily dilute them with water and sip through a straw.
- Enjoy sweets in moderation and chew them rather than sucking for long periods.
Talk to your Dentist
It’s important to see your dentist once or twice a year as changes in the mouth can happen without you realising it. A chat with your dentist may include a discussion about your diet, lifestyle and sometimes even your work environment. This information can provide an insight to why the health of your mouth has changed and what impact it is having on your teeth.
Your dentist can provide:
- Detailed advice to address early problems like damaged enamel
- Specialised treatments and products to stop or slow down acid erosion
- Advice on a home routine to help restore or strengthen your teeth.
As teeth age, they often need an extra helping hand to stay strong, functional and disease free. Making wise consumption choices can help keep them strong and structurally sound throughout your life. For a thorough examination, book an appointment with your Health Hub dentist today!
Contribution by:Vivienne Bidaud