More than ever, people are taking steps to look after their oral and general health. With this comes various diet, lifestyle and health trends intertwined within the need for convenience, time saving and cost-effective options.
Despite many of us wanting to improve our health many are unaware of the serious side effects an acidic diet can have on our teeth. Unfortunately, many items that have been linked to significant general health benefits can be extremely detrimental to our teeth. Constant ‘Acid Attack’ can lead to a condition known as “Dental Erosion”. Surprisingly enough many people are unaware of the long-term impacts on their dentition.
Interestingly – it can be prevented!
What is Dental Erosion?
Simply put, it’s a type of tooth wear resulting in the irreversible loss of tooth structure due to chemical dissolution by acids. Overtime, chemical dissolution ‘melts away’ the tooth structure ultimately resulting in ‘concavities’ or ‘volcano’ like formations appearing on effected teeth. In severe cases, these concavities are large enough place your fingernail into!
Courtesy: Australian Dental (2016)
What causes to Dental Erosion?
Certain medical conditions, medications and most commonly, consistent exposure to acid foodstuffs (we will focus on the latter).
Although there may be many health benefits for the body, when consumed regularly, many food choices are highly acidic and can lead to Dental Erosion – see the top contributors below. Some may surprise you.
The pH scale determines the acidity of substances based on a scale from 1 (Very Acidic) to 14 (very Alkaline). A lower pH indicates the item is more acidic. Frequent consumption of acidic items increases the risk of dental erosion
- Lemon Juice – pH 2
- Vitamin C Tablets – pH 2.4
- Coke – pH 2.5
- Balsamic Vinegar – pH 2.6
- Red Bull / V Drinks – pH 3.3
- Oranges – pH 3.3
- Wine – pH 3.5
- Beer – pH 4.0
- Strawberry Jam – pH 4.0
- Yoghurt – pH 4.5
- Coffee – pH 5.0
What are the side effects?
Short term, individuals will notice aesthetic changes such as the yellowing of the teeth (as the enamel dissipates and exposes the underlying dentine), small concavities or indentations forming on (particularly) the front and biting surfaces of the teeth and most commonly tooth sensitivity.
Long term, dental erosion leads to severe structural loss resulting in the teeth ‘shrinking’ in size, a reduction in facial profile (nose becomes closer to the chin) as the upper teeth now begin to sink over the lower teeth, severe sensitivity and eventually nerve exposure. At this point, the solution may be very costly resulting in extensive restorative or cosmetic dental treatment.
How do I prevent dental erosion?
Some basic tips to help prevent and manage dental erosion:
Take a moment to consider what you consume regularly. Where possible, eliminate or at least reduce the frequency of highly acidic substances. Although many may carry health benefits is the frequent and dangerous exposure worth the risk and possible cost to your teeth?
Read the ingredients of the products you consume regularly. Many long-life products have been acidulated to assist in ‘shelf life preservation’, try and avoid those with ‘Acidity Regulators’ and ‘Ascorbic Acids’.
It takes the mouth 20-30mins (even longer if the item was very acidic) to reach a stable environment after a meal or snack. Avoid brushing for at least 30 minutes after any meal or snack and rinse (and spit) until the 30-minute mark is reached. Alternatively, chewing sugar free gum is a great alternative and helps with eliminating bad breath from coffee etc.
Use a tooth strengthening (remineralising) product e.g. GC Toothmousse Plus or Voco Remin Pro. These products help manage erosion, sensitivity levels and prevent decay. Remember, dental erosion results in irreversible loss – enamel loss cannot be ‘regrown’, yet!