How Acidic Food and Drinks Cause Teeth Erosion

While there are lots of causes for teeth erosion, one of the most common culprits is acid found in foods and drinks that many of us consume every day. At Accent Smile Center, we know that keeping your teeth healthy is a daily task. In order to have a healthy mouth, you might have to make some lifestyle changes, but healthy teeth are worth in investment!

What Causes Erosion?

Calcium is an essential part of strong teeth. Acids pull calcium out of your teeth’s enamel and weaken it. This exposes dentin, a sensitive part of your teeth, which opens your teeth up to plaque and bacteria can cause sensitivity, decay, and discoloration.

Acid is found in lots of different kinds of foods and drinks. Such as:

  • Wine
  • Fruit juice
  • Citric Fruits – If it tastes sour, it’s probably high in eroding acid.
  • Candy, especially sour candy.
  • Sugar
  • Grains
  • Processed food
  • Soda and sweetened beverages
  • High protein foods and supplements
  • Energy Drinks

Check out this helpful chart for specific pH information on some of your favorite beverages

All of these foods have a low pH balance, which is what defines acidity. Everything in your body works best when it stays at its ideal pH balance, so eating acidic foods or more commonly drinking acidic and sugary drinks often can have an effect on your entire body, but the damage it can do to your teeth has lasting consequences.

Minerals in your teeth are what keeps them strong, and healthy, and one of the most important minerals is calcium. When acid decreases the amount of calcium in your teeth and enamel, it’s called demineralization. This process exposes the layer of your teeth that lies behind the enamel: the dentin. Dentin is still a strong material but is contains open tubes that reach down into the pulp inside of your teeth. This means that teeth that have worn down to the dentin are more sensitive than teeth with intact enamel.

Woman with a tooth ache

Signs of Erosion

You’ll usually be able to tell when you’re enamel has eroded because of too much contact with acidic food and drinks. This include:

  • Sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet food and drinks
  • White spots on the teeth around the gums
  • Yellowing teeth. Enamel is hard and translucent and is not the part of your teeth that determines the color. Dentin, which is softer, can be discolored by food, drinks, or other factors. This is more likely to happen when the enamel is eroded, and outside substances are able to affect the dentin.
  • Teeth appear rounded.
  • Teeth appear transparent near the edges.
  • Small cracks in your teeth.

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you probably have some degree of tooth erosion. While acid food and drinks aren’t the only cause of erosion, they are the most common culprits. Whether your teeth are already eroded or you are trying to prevent damage in the first place, being smart with how you consume acidic food and drink can make a big difference on your oral health as well as your overall health.

Tips to Prevent Erosion

Even though it may be unrealistic to completely cut these foods out of your diet, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage caused by acid foods and drinks.

Avoid acidic snacks. Eating acidic foods as a part of a meal can decrease the amount of time the acidic elements are actually in contact with your enamel. Additionally, if you drink water while you eat, you’ll be continually rinsing your teeth. You can also eat foods with higher pH levels to help balance out the acid, both on your teeth and throughout your body. On the other hand, as you snack throughout the day, you expose your teeth to small amounts of acid over a longer period of time, causing significantly more erosion.

Drink Water: Just like drinking water with a meal helps rinse the acid off of your teeth, drinking water throughout the day keeps acid from staying on your teeth between meals. Also, replacing sugary or acid drinks (SODA or ENERGY DRINKS) with water has many benefits. It ensures less erosion to your teeth, but it also helps your overall health and weight.

Reduce sugar. Any way that you can reduce sugar is good for your teeth, as well as every other part of your body.

Don’t brush right away. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s very important. Acid weakens the enamel right after contact, and if you brush while the enamel is weakened, you will do even more damage. You should wait for at least 30 minutes after you eat an acidic food or drink an acidic drink to brush your teeth. If you are concerned about waiting that long, you can drink or swish water to rinse your teeth safely.

Chew Gum between meals. Chewing sugar-free gum between meals can help strengthen your teeth. This produces 10 more saliva than is normally in your mouth. Saliva distributes minerals, such as calcium, to your teeth. By distributing more calcium to your teeth, your enamel stays strong. Additionally, sugar-free gum made with xylitol reduces the amount of acid in food and beverages.

Keeping your teeth healthy everyday

As always, the best way to keep your teeth and mouth healthy is by brushing and flossing daily and using mouthwash as your dentist recommends. And of course, you should always visit your dentist for regular dental cleanings every 6 months.

Dr. Gatgens and Dr. Ezell at Accent Smile Center are committed to helping you achieve and maintain your best smile. This includes helping you understand the steps you can take daily to keep your teeth healthy. Contact us today to get your healthiest, most beautiful smile.