acid attack on teeth

Acid Attack on Teeth

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 occurs when the enamel, the protective outer layer of your teeth, gradually wears away due to various factors. This erosion can have several detrimental effects on your teeth. Firstly, it leads to increased tooth sensitivity as the protective enamel diminishes, exposing the more sensitive dentin underneath. Additionally, tooth erosion can result in changes to the appearance of your teeth, causing them to appear discolored, transparent, or more prone to staining.

As the erosion progresses, it can alter the shape and texture of the teeth, making them more susceptible to damage and decay. In severe cases, it may lead to tooth decay and cavities, impacting the overall integrity of the affected teeth. Moreover, prolonged and untreated tooth erosion can contribute to complications such as gum recession, as the weakened enamel may compromise the support structures of the teeth.

The causes of tooth erosion vary and include acidic foods and beverages, frequent consumption of sugary or acidic snacks, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and certain medications. It’s essential to address the underlying causes and take preventive measures, such as practicing good oral hygiene, limiting acidic food and drink intake, and seeking dental advice to mitigate the effects of tooth erosion and maintain the health of your teeth. Regular dental check-ups are crucial for early detection and intervention to prevent further damage.

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. 

Being aware of the impact of acidic foods and beverages on your dental health is crucial. Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, along with tomatoes and pickles, contain acids that can gradually erode tooth enamel. Citrus juices, sodas, and carbonated drinks are acidic culprits that can contribute to enamel decay. Even seemingly innocent choices like sports drinks, with their acidic content, and frequent consumption of coffee or tea, can affect your dental well-being. Additionally, alcoholic beverages, especially those with high acidity or mixers, may pose risks to your teeth. Moderation is key, and it’s advisable to rinse your mouth with water after consuming acidic items to help neutralize acids. Regular dental check-ups play a vital role in addressing any concerns and ensuring your overall oral health remains intact.

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.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and prevent cavities.
  • Flossing helps remove plaque and debris between teeth and along the gumline, where your toothbrush may not reach.
  • Rinse with an antiseptic or fluoride mouthwash to help reduce plaque, fight bacteria, and strengthen teeth.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit sugary snacks and beverages.
  • Drinking water helps wash away food particles, bacteria, and acids, contributing to better oral health.
  • Smoking and using tobacco can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and oral cancer. Quitting is beneficial for your overall health.
  • Excessive alcohol can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. Consume alcohol in moderation.
  • Wear a mouthguard when participating in sports or activities that could result in dental injuries.
  • Schedule routine dental visits for professional cleanings and examinations to catch issues early and maintain oral health.
  • If you grind your teeth, discuss it with your dentist. They may recommend a nightguard to protect your teeth.
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