Erosion: What You Eat and Drink Can Impact Teeth
Sweet-tasting drinks are harmful for your teeth, but are they the only drinks that do? Think again.
Your smile can be damaged by several dietary factors, not only sugar. Foods and beverages that are high in acids will erode the enamel that protects your teeth. This process is called erosive tooth wear and will change the appearance of your teeth, which will increase your risk of sensitivity and tooth decay.
What Does Tooth Erosion Do to My Teeth?
Tooth erosion is permanent. If your enamel has started to wear away, you may:
- Feel sensitivity when consuming hot, cold or sweet drinks
- See a yellowish discolouration of your teeth
- Filling appearance may change
- With continual use, it can lead to tooth decay, abscess and even tooth loss.
Once erosion occurs, you need to change your diet and possibly look at restoring those craters in your teeth.
Acidic Foods and Beverages to Watch For
If your drink tastes like citrus, is carbonated or sour, make sure you limit the amount you consume.
When eating healthy, acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes, eat them as part of a meal, not by themselves. Dried fruits, such as sultanas are sticky and adhere to teeth, so the bacteria in your mouth which turn them into acid continues to damage your teeth long after you stop eating them.
The major culprit for tooth erosion is soft drinks and sports drinks. Even if they are sugar-free, any carbonated water has a higher acid level of any drink, regardless of its flavour.
Acid in beverages can also come from citrus flavourings such as lemon, lime and orange. Even all-natural juices like orange or fresh-squeezed lemon are higher in acid than regular water, so they should be an occasional treat.
Tips for Protecting Your Teeth
You can reduce tooth erosion from what you eat and drink by following these tips:
- Wait an hour before you brush after eating acidic foods to give your saliva a chance to naturally wash away acids and re-harden your enamel.
- Limit – or avoid – acidic beverages like soft drinks. If you do indulge, use a straw.
- Use a straw where possible to eliminate tooth contact.
- After acidic meals or beverages, rinse your mouth with water, drink milk or enjoy a snack of cheese right afterward. Dairy and other calcium-rich foods can help neutralize acids.
- Use fluoridated toothpaste, to protect your enamel.
- Talk to your dentist. Your dentist can explain the effects of nutritional choices on your teeth, including the various foods and beverages to choose and which ones to avoid.