Tooth enamel is like armor for your teeth. Though it is the hardest substance in your body, it is not invulnerable. Everyone is at risk, but teens and young adults have more porous, immature tooth enamel that breaks down easily.
Most of you are probably aware of the danger sugars present to your teeth, but you may not be aware that acids can have the same or worse effects. Acids strip minerals from your teeth, damaging the enamel.
What are some common foods and beverages that you might not realize contribute to damaging your teeth?
• Sports Drinks: In one study, sports drinks did more damage to teeth than sodas or juices! Sports drinks contain acids which are added to help replenish what your body has lost. Generally speaking, only true endurance athletes need to use sports drinks.
• Energy Drinks: Energy drinks placed second in damage to your tooth enamel because there is little in them to buffer the acids they contain. Some energy drinks also contain a lot of sugar to give you an immediate boost of energy. Sugar plus acid equals a double whammy for your enamel!
• Soft Drinks: The high acid content of all sodas, including diet varieties, strips minerals from your teeth. Non-diet sodas contain oral-bacteria-activating sugars and, just like energy drinks, provide a double whammy to your teeth. Clear, citrus flavored sodas cause 2 to 5 times more damage to your teeth than colas.
• Fruit Juices & Drinks: Even 100% juice drinks contain some acids. Citrus, apple and berry flavors have the most. Since juices do have some benefits such as vitamins and anti-oxidants, it is recommended that you drink them in moderation and that you rinse your mouth with water afterward. Calcium-fortified juices may pose less of a hazard to your tooth enamel due to calcium counteracting the acidic effects.
• Sour Candy: One study showed that sour candies, such as Sour Patch Kids or SweetTarts, are worse for teeth than regular chewy candy, hard candy or licorice. Acid added by the manufacturer’s to create the tangy taste seems to be the culprit.
• Fruit: Citrus fruits and berries contain the most enamel damaging acids. Because fruits have so many health benefits, eat them with meals to minimize damage and don’t suck on citrus fruit slices.
• Vinegar: Vinegar is a hidden ingredient in many foods because it is a low fat way to add flavor. Some common products that contain vinegar are pickles, salad dressings, sauces, some potato chips, and even ketchup.
So what can you do to minimize acid wear on your teeth?
1. Avoid snacking
2. Don’t swish acidic beverage around in or hold them in your mouth. Sip through a straw to limit the amount of contact with your teeth.
3. Rinse your mouth with plain water or chew sugarless gum after meals to neutralize acids.
4. Consume high calcium milk or cheese before or with meals to help reharden enamel. Foods high in iron like liver or broccoli may help too.
5. Wait 30 minutes before brushing after eating or drinking highly acidic foods or beverages to allow your softened enamel a chance to reharden. Softened enamel is more likely to be damaged by the mechanical actions of your toothbrush.
6. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen your enamel. Some brands like Sensodyne Pronamel are specifically designed to make fluoride available to counteract the acids in your foods and beverages. Home fluoride treatments are also available.
7. See your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. Healthy teeth and healthy enamel are linked.
Once enamel is damaged, it is hard to reverse the process. Take the time to protect your teeth. If you do not have a dentist, I invite you to call my office at 440-960-1940 to make an appointment. You can also ask questions or make comments on facebook at www.facebook.com/drjenniferrobb
Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the judgement of your health care professionals.
Jennifer G. Robb, DMD is a general dentist with an office located at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd. W, Lorain, OH 44053