Enamel is the hardest substance in our body. It acts as an outer protective layer of the teeth. Though enamel is a tough layer, it can still be destroyed by acidic foods and drinks.
One of the main consequences of enamel loss is tooth sensitivity. So what happens when you eat your favorite acidic food?
Your body’s average pH level is slightly above 7. When you consume acidic food and beverages, the dynamics change significantly in the mouth. Acids from these foods attack the surface of the tooth.
When enamel starts to wear away, the biting edges begin to become transparent, and the teeth become more sensitive to hot and cold food items.
Switching your diet to non-acidic foods can help you to prevent enamel erosion and its related consequences.
The best food for the teeth is cheese, milk, water, nuts and many more. Such items protect the layer of enamel for a long time. Additionally, they provide a healthy oral environment.
Choosing the right food and drink is essential to maintain good oral health. Today’s article highlights the three great drinks that do not cause enamel erosion.
What is enamel erosion?
Enamel erosion is a clinical process where the outer layer of the tooth weakens and wears away. Most often it is caused by acids from drinks like soda, wine, and fresh citric juices. Other factors that may cause enamel erosion are acid reflux or bulimia. (1)
How does enamel erosion occur?
The pH scale is a way of measuring the level of acidity of a substance. Substances that fall under the pH level 7 are marked as acidic and substances with a pH higher than 7 are alkaline.
Our mouth usually has a pH above 7. High concentrations of acids can alter the dynamics and bring the pH down to level three or four. (2)
When this imbalance in pH of the mouth is not restored immediately, the acids attack the surface of the teeth and breaches the layer of enamel.
Intake of alkaline food can help to neutralize the acidic environment and prevent tooth damage.
What are the signs and symptoms of enamel erosion?
Typical signs and symptoms of enamel erosion may include:
- Tooth sensitivity – with loss of enamel, the tooth becomes sensitive to hold and cold food and beverages.
- Discoloration – enamel is white. Loss of enamel due to acid erosion exposes the underlying yellow dentin. Thus, the teeth appear yellowish.
- Transparency – enamel erosion makes the biting edges weak and transparent.
- Cracks and fractures – weakening of enamel often leads to cracks and fracture of the tooth surface. (3)
Which drinks do not cause enamel erosion?
Non-acidic drinks prevent the tooth from the harmful effects of acid erosion. They further protect the integrity of enamel for a long time. Following are the three leading non-acidic drinks that you can consume daily – (4)
Scientifically, the pH of milk is estimated to be 6.7 which is slightly below the neutral level of pH in the mouth. However, milk is considered as the best drink to prevent enamel erosion.
Additionally, the calcium and phosphorus in the milk remineralize and strengthens the tooth structure.
Early signs of acid erosion can be easily reversed by drinking milk. Recent studies have shown that people who drink milk after a sugary meal, have the lowest amount of acids in their mouth.
With the development of different types of milk in the market, it is tough to decide which variety is suitable for oral health.
Dairy milk is the best drink to prevent acid erosion. Other types like soy milk have shown increased acidic content.
If you are lactose intolerant, you can switch from milk to other non-acidic beverages as mentioned below.
Water is the most valuable and essential component of a healthy life. Plain water effectively prevents enamel erosion.
Although it lacks calcium and phosphorus like milk, water contains fluoride as its enamel protector.
Fluoride binds with the calcium on the surface of the tooth and strengthens the enamel. It minimizes the risk of enamel erosion and tooth decay.
Fluoridated water is by far the best non-acidic beverage that you can drink to prevent enamel erosion.
One cup of tea, especially green tea can do wonders to your teeth. Studies have shown that green tea decreases the incidence of gum disease. It is non-acidic and therefore, prevents enamel erosion as well.
The main ingredient that helps to make tea the right choice is catechin. Catechin is an anti-oxidant that effectively treats bacterial related inflammation in the mouth — other ingredients like polyphenols and fluoride found in tea help to protect the wearing away of enamel.
- If you want to drink carbonated or acidic drinks once in a while, use a straw to minimize the contact with the tooth surface.
- Rinse your mouth with water immediately after consumption of acidic food or beverage.
- Do not brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after food consumption. The acids in the mouth can get aggravated while brushing.
- Use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen the enamel and protect your teeth from tooth decay. (5)
- Visit your dentist to treat tooth sensitivity or plan a diet routine.
Take away message
Enamel erosion is an increasing dental problem faced by a large population. The primary source of enamel weakening is the acidic oral environment.
Such type of oral environment is created by excessive consumption of rich, acidic foods and beverages like soda, acidic juices, sugary food substances and many more.
Acid erosion of enamel results in tooth sensitivity and changes in the color and texture of the tooth. An efficient way to prevent enamel erosion is to switch from acidic to non-acidic drinks and food.
Milk, water, and tea have scientifically been proven to be the best non-acidic drinks to prevent enamel erosion.
Furthermore, you can follow useful preventive oral healthcare measures to maintain healthy oral hygiene.