Does what I drink cause damage to my tooth enamel?
The enamel protecting our teeth is the hardest substance in our bodies. It is a truly remarkable substance. However, we should not take it for granted. It can be damaged more easily than most people know. Acids in the things we drink can be a major factor in damaging that very important enamel. This is know as acid erosion.
The degree of tooth damage caused by acid erosion varies depending on a number of factors: the acidity of the drink, the type of acid involved, and the length of time that the teeth are exposed to the acid in question.
The pH scale measures the degree of acidity or alkalinity in a substance, including food and drink. This scale positions neutral substances at 7, and increasing acidity is reflected in decreasing numbers while increasing alkalinity is reflected in increasing numbers. Tooth erosion can be caused by substances with an acidity pH number below 5.0 to 5.7. That means that even coffee and wine
have some potential effect, but more acidic drinks like fruit juices and carbonated drinks are the ones of most concern. This pH scale shows diagrammatically where some common substances are located on the pH scale.
Carbonated soft drinks are often cited as problematic for their acidic effect on teeth. This problem is increased by the combination of acidity, carbonation, and sugar. The worst of these drinks can reduce tooth mass by up to 5% after immersion for 48 hours.
As bad as soft drinks are perceived to be, the same study found that fruit juices were worse. While fruit juices are often perceived as healthy drinks, they are in fact the most damaging to teeth in terms of the acid erosion they cause, because of their citric acid content. Sports drinksalso did not fare well, as many of them are recreation of fruit juices, and so have high levels of citric and phosphoric acids. Wine and beer can also be acidic enough to have some demineralizing effect on teeth.
The amount of time that the acid is in contact with the teeth plays an important role in causing acid erosion as well. This factor becomes particularly significant with young children, who may be given fruit juice in a drink cup or even in a baby bottle. Such long-time exposure gives the acids in the juices time to work. When, in the worst scenario, a child is sent off to sleep with a bottle of fruit juice as a pacifier, the time of acidic exposure could run into hours.
The effects of acidic drinks on the teeth can be reduced by rinsing with water, by cleaning the teeth soon after (but not immediately after, as the enamel might still be soft for a while after exposure), and by reducing the length of time of exposure.
The length of time your teeth are exposed to acidic drink can also be reduced by using a straw (which carries the drink away from the front surface of the front teeth), and by changing habits. Adults can regulate how often and how quickly they drink acidic drinks, and how long they hold the liquid of a drink in their mouths. Does it take 5 minutes to drink a soda or do you sip on it for an hour or more? Adults can also make wise choices about the exposure to acidic drinks that children in their care receive. In particular, leaving children with fruit drinks and juices to sip at leisure is best avoided, as is leaving a child with an acidic drink to lull them to sleep.
In conclusion, the best way to avoid damaging your tooth enamel is avoiding drinks that can erode tooth that enamel. Short of that, getting it off of the enamel surfaces as quickly as possible can also help.
Serious acid erosion is not reversible, but it can be repaired. To learn more, visit us at our office. Call today to get an appointment!