Acid, in it’s purest form, can melt things. You’ve seen it in sci-fi films. In a lemon, acid has a less severe effect, but most assuredly enough it still has an impact of eroding your teeth over time; especially if consumed in conjunction with other highly-acidic food choices, the effect will be one you’ll see before long.
Read on to see if you already knew much about tooth erosion, and how much you might be exposing your teeth to this erosive villain when you go in for sour candies this holiday season.
What is enamel erosion?
There are four layers that make up your physical tooth. The pulp (the innermost portion and has connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels, which nourish the tooth) is the deepest. The dentin that surrounds the pulp is hard as bone, and gives teeth their yellowish tint. The enamel (the hardest tissue in the body, covering the dentin and protecting other layers of your teeth from harmful bacteria) changes in temperature based on what you eat. And then, cementum is under the gum line, and covers the root of the pulp and connects tooth to jawbone1.
So, this enamel surface of your teeth is a protective layer. If your enamel is worn away by erosion, the underlying dentin is vulnerable to plaque, bacteria, and the whole gamut that causes decay.
What causes tooth erosion?
There are a few key culprits of tooth erosion. If you’ve been feeling sensitive to food temperatures, sweets and other foods, you can be aware of these corrosive foods (and signs of erosion) to take corrective action.
Drum roll – the biggest offender to teeth erosions is….acid! Acid comes in many forms. No matter the form, though, exposing your teeth to it will leach calcium from your enamel, therefore causing it to weaken.
This holiday season, try to avoid the following:
- Carbonated drinks – Soda is bad for your teeth in general. In case you didn’t know why, we’ll spell it out: it contains high levels of acid, chemicals AND sugar for a triple-corrosive whammy.
- Wine – The production process of wine makes it naturally acidic, so it doesn’t matter what your choice color is—it still can weaken your enamel.
- Candy – We all know candy is bad. To remind you, though, sugar turns into bacteria and causes decay. But, in moderation and with good oral hygiene, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Sour candy, on the other hand, means acidity, which means erosion!
- Sugar – As stated above, sugar is bacteria that turns into plaque that eats away at your teeth if not swished, brushed and flossed away – or better yet – not eaten at all – or at the very least – in moderation.
- Fruit juices – The highest concentrations of acid in fruit juice can be found in cranberry, apple, orange and lemon juice.
Signs of tooth erosion:
In order to avoid dental problems like cracks, pain and decay in your teeth, it’s key that you pay attention for the following signs of erosion:
- Sensitivity – Ever feel a twinge of pain after consuming something cold, hot or sweet? That can be because enamel has worked away.
- Discoloration – You’ll notice a lot more yellowing as the dentin begins to be exposed from acid erosion to the tooth enamel.
- Rounded teeth – Seeing rounded corners on your teeth? Yep, that’s almost certainly erosion.
- Transparency – If the edges of your teeth start looking translucent, acid erosion has probably begun.
- Cracks – Did a tooth crack? Or, are there some teeth that are rough around the edges? This could very well be erosion.
- “Cupping” – If a dent appears on the surface of a tooth or a filling starts to rise out of tooth, acid may be to blame.
You won’t have teeth. That’s the worst case.
Up until then, you can lose one tooth, two teeth, or a lot of your teeth, because over the course of time, erosion can make them weak and then crack—weak teeth can then succumb to an attack of bacteria, which could lead to either an extraction, a root canal and later a crown, implant or bridge.
Tips to prevent erosion:
A healthy diet includes moderation in all things. We’re not here to deprive our patients of the finer things in life. That said, the following tips can help reduce chances of acid erosion to your teeth:
- If you must drink soda – It may not be your choice way of drinking your favorite bubbly beverage, but it will curb the amount of acid that touches your teeth. Also, consuming a drink fairly quickly instead of sipping can help.
- Swish with water – Even a half-glass of water can help wash away an acid that would otherwise sit on your teeth.
- Avoid carbonation – Yes, that means champagne and soda alike. Milk, tea or flavored waters are good substitutes if you want a caffeine kick or something sweet.
- Hold off on brushing – Brushing immediately after consuming something acidic can actually cause more damage than waiting, so hold off on brushing for at least 30 minutes after eating…particularly if there was something high in acid.
At the end of the day it’s all about moderation. How can you possibly avoid a glass of good ol’ bubbly on New Years Eve? Or that delicious glass of red wine Grandma paid a hundred dollars for? Or your friend’s “sinful and sour” cocktail recipe? Remember our tips on how to prevent the erosion, and be sure to schedule a post-holiday check in with your dentist to ensure everything is going good!
Till then, Happy Holidays from all of us here at the office of Dr. Marchbanks!