The Sour Truth About Tooth Erosion
Story by Liesel Schmidt
Brought to you by Greater Washington Dentistry
When sour or acidic food breaks down enamel, it lowers the teeth's natural guard. When this happens, teeth can change color, can be more susceptible to bacteria or causes of infection and can erode.
If that sounds bad, it’s because it is. Think about this long term—tooth erosion is permanent. A few signs that your enamel has started to wear away include:
- Pain or sensitivity when consuming hot, cold or sweet drinks
- Yellowish discoloration of the teeth
- Change in your fillings
- Experiencing more cavities over time
- Development of an abscess (in very extreme cases)
- Tooth loss (in very extreme cases)
Once erosion occurs, you may need fillings, crowns, a root canal or tooth extraction. Veneers may also be an option to consider as you restore damaged teeth.
Need a cheat sheet to help you navigate the wild world of acidic foods and beverages to watch out for? An easy rule of thumb is to limit intake of citrus or citrus-flavored, carbonated or sour foods.
Even nutritious foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits can have acidic effects on tooth enamel, so eat them as part of a meal rather than on their own. Dried fruits can also pose issues because they adhere to teeth, so the acids produced by cavity-causing bacteria continue to pose a risk after you’ve finished eating.
Still claiming the top of the leaderboard, however, are soft drinks—especially sodas—thanks to the acid caused by carbonation. Bubbles elevate the acidity of any drink, regardless of its flavor or sugar content. Acid in beverages can also come from citrus flavorings, even when they are all-natural, so watch the frequency of your consumption. The same goes for wine and coffee. Much as you may love one (or both) of them, drink them in moderation.
Lastly, sour candies are extremely acidic. Many include citric acids to achieve their high pucker factor, so proceed with caution and keep your sweet tooth in check.
- Want to stop the damage? You can reduce tooth erosion with a few simple tips:
- After eating acidic foods, wait an hour before brushing to give your saliva a chance to wash away acids and re-harden your enamel naturally.
- Limit acidic beverages or avoid them completely. If you imbibe, use a straw and don’t swish or hold the drink in your mouth. Sip and swallow.
- After acidic meals or beverages, rinse your mouth with water or drink milk to neutralize acids.
- Saliva helps keep acid in check, so check sugarless gum to keep saliva flowing.