Tooth erosion can often lead to a progressive irreversible loss of tooth structure that is chemically etched away from tooth surfaces by acid. It is another ever-increasing problem around the world, especially in industrialized countries. It results from the increased ingestion of acidic beverages such as soft drinks, fruit juices, sodas, and sports drinks. Not only are these products high in sugar content, but are also very acidic, even the diet drinks. Extrinsic acids included in these beverages when consumed frequently, once or more a day can cause erosion. If you consume any acidic drink even if mildly acidic may initiate it.
Intrinsic acids that are produced by the body can cause dental erosion that might be followed by vomiting, regurgitation, or reflux, and can be extremely damaging to the teeth. Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is now an identified cause of tooth erosion from hydrochloric (stomach) acid. It is also responsible for the extensive erosion of teeth seen in conditions like bulimia and anorexia where reflux is a common and constant problem.
Overenthusiastic oral hygiene and grinding habits can also worsen dental erosion significantly. Brushing your teeth after consuming any acidic product, before the saliva has had a chance to buffer (neutralize) the acid and remineralize the tooth surface, can actually cause the removal of the softened enamel.
How to Promote Good Oral and General Health
- Make sure that you eat a healthy nutritionally sound diet, get plenty of exercises, and follow the recommendations of your dentists.
- Avoid eating any sugary snacks between meals.
- Avoid eating sugars even in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Make sure that you do not consume more than a maximum equivalent of 6 teaspoons of processed sugar per day (or 3 if a child.)
- Limit the amount and frequency of soft drinks, juices, sodas, and sports drinks to minimize the risk of tooth decay and acid erosion.
- Avoiding eating anything for at least an hour before bedtime especially foods containing processed sugars. Low salivary flow rates during sleep reduce the ability to neutralize acid increasing the risk of tooth decay.
Foods That Protect Against Decay
- Cheese: Eating cheese after a sugary snack prevents an increase in acidity. Cheese stimulates saliva and is rich in calcium affecting the balance of re-calcifying teeth and protecting against loss of calcium.
- Cow’s Milk: Contains lactose, which is less acid constructing than other sugars and does not promote decay as readily. Besides, it also has calcium, phosphorus, and casein, all of which help stop decay. But bottle-feeding milk at night can cause decay.
- Human Breast Milk:Includes 7% lactose and is lower in calcium and phosphate. It commonly does not initiate decay except in cases of high-frequency nighttime feeding and prolonged on-demand feeding.
- Plant Foods: are fibrous and defend teeth by mechanically stimulating saliva. Peanuts, hard cheeses, and gum that have xylitol can act the same way.
- Black & Green Teas: Are especially rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, which are complex antioxidant compounds present in many plant foods. The fluoride in black tea can also protect against decay.
- Chocolate: Some studies show that consuming cocoa in an unrefined form (without added sugars) might have some anti-decay potential due to polyphenolic compounds present, but processed chocolate is too high in sugar to be good for the teeth.
Looking after your teeth is essential if you want them to last a lifetime! Holding to a nutritionally sound diet that is low in free sugars, high in fiber, lots of fruits and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water (preferably fluoridated) will safeguard your oral and dental health as well as your general health and well-being.