Acid Erosion of Enamel
The outer enamel layer of the tooth makes a hard protective covering. But acids in our mouth can weaken this enamel and erode it away. That can cause:
- Excessive wearing down of some tooth surfaces.
- Sensitive teeth.
- Areas more prone to decay.
- Changes in tooth colour (yellower) or increased translucence as the enamel thins.
Some foods and drinks are high in acid and are one cause of this erosion problem. The worst ones are:
- Sports drinks and energy drinks.
- Soft drinks – both regular and diet pop are harmfully acidic.
- Fruit juices and fruits especially citrus fruits, grapes, berries and pineapple. Eat with a meal or rinse after eating.
- Sour candies choose chocolate instead!
Other things to consider:
- Teenagers and kids are sometimes more vulnerable to acid erosion as the enamel is more porous in younger teeth.
- Older adults or people with a “dry mouth” have less saliva to wash away and buffer the acid, making their teeth more vulnerable.
- “Swishing” acidic drinks through the teeth is a harmful habit. If drinking an acid drink, like pop, it is better to drink it promptly than to sip at it slowly for a longer time period. Also, using a straw means less acid bathes the teeth.
- Consuming acidic foods and drinks between meals is more harmful than having them with a meal, where the acid is diluted by other foods and extra saliva. Some foods actually help counteract acids, such as cheese, yogurt and milk products, as they buffer the acid attack and help to harden enamel. Meat and nuts are good snacks too if you are trying to avoid acids.
- After having acid foods or drinks it is helpful to rinse with water or chew sugarless gum to increase saliva flow, to help wash away the acid.
- Do not brush teeth for 30 minutes after meals or snacks if you have a concern about erosion. It takes that long for enamel softened by acid to re-harden. Brushing while the enamel is soft will wear it away more. Use a soft or extra-soft toothbrush (manual or electric brush is okay). A desensitizing toothpaste may be helpful if teeth are sensitive (eg. ProNamel, Sensodyne, Crest Pro Health).
- Stomach acids can also affect the teeth, This can be a problem for people with gastric reflux (GERD), bulimia or people who vomit frequently. Ask your dentist for more advice.
- If excessive wear of enamel on the chewing surfaces is a problem, your dentist may suggest a night guard, a plastic appliance that covers and protects your teeth while you sleep.