Most of the food that we consume on a daily basis contains a certain percentage of acid in it. The healthier way is to eat in moderation.
When too many acidic foods are consumed in a large quantity, it can cause damage to the outermost protective layer of the tooth, i.e., the enamel.
The acids from these food cause chipping of the layer during the process of demineralization and washes away the enamel. Such a process is known as tooth erosion.
A tooth damaged by acid erosion becomes susceptible to decay, cavities, cracking and chipping. Often this process goes unidentified unless it reaches the point where the tooth starts to chip or hurt.
Let’s read more to identify the food items that are the prime reason for tooth erosion and what can you do to prevent it.
What is tooth erosion?
Tooth erosion also known as acid erosion or dental erosion is identified as a process of tooth wear.
It is clinically defined as an irreversible loss of tooth structure due to a chemical dissolution of minerals of the tooth by acids which are not of bacterial origin. (1)
Saliva in the mouth provides certain minerals that help in remineralization of the teeth.
But when the oral environment turns acidic, it not only affects this property of the saliva but also eliminates the possibility of remineralization of tooth making tooth erosion an irreversible process.
Though it is prevalent in all individuals to some extent, it commonly is seen in children around the age of 5-17 years.
What foods cause tooth erosion?
An acid-rich diet may provide you the required nutrition but can cause a great deal of damage to the tooth structure.
Scientifically any food that has a pH below seven is considered as acidic and above seven is regarded as alkaline.
The foods that cause tooth erosion can be widely categorized depending on the pH levels or acidity levels. (2)
- High acidity – Foods in this category have an average pH of four or less than four. These may include beverages like lemon juice, aerated drinks, wine, and tea. Fruits like berries, grapes, and oranges. Vegetable like tomatoes.
- Medium acidity – Foods in this category have a pH of around 4-5. These may include black tea, honey, citrus fruits, apples, pears, figs, tomato sauce, vitamin C tablets, and beer.
- Low acidity – Foods in this category though are acidic but have a better pH range of 5-7. They include bread, bananas, yogurt, cheese, avocados, green vegetables like broccoli, celery, cucumbers and water, milk or butter.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The process of acid erosion mostly goes unnoticed. A dentist can detect it during a dental examination.
Often the first symptom of tooth erosion includes sensitivity to hot or cold food. In worse conditions sensitivity increases on eating sweet or sour food as well.
Other clinical signs and symptoms may include –
- Thinning of the enamel
- Presence of rough surface or cracks
- Chipping away of the tooth surface
- Discoloration of teeth – mostly yellow or brown
- Round dents may be visible on the surface of the tooth
A tooth erosion may not look harmful in symptoms but if left untreated can cause a lot of damage to the tooth structure.
It is a generalized process, so it involves more than one teeth or sometimes the entire dentition. (3)
How can you prevent it?
Prevention can be done by carefully monitoring the amount of food and the type of food you consume daily. The key is to eat in moderation.
- Reduce the time of contact – It is wise to finish a carbonated drink quickly or use a straw while sipping to reduce the time of contact of the acidic food with the tooth surface.
- Do not brush immediately after consuming acidic food. The food makes the enamel weak for the time being, brushing over this enamel will abrade the tooth structure even more and weaken it further.
- Drink water after any meal to rinse away the acid and neutralize the oral cavity, regaining back the essential properties of saliva.
- Have a piece of cheese or drink milk after intake of an acidic food to neutralize the oral environment and prevent the damage to the tooth. It also provides you with the essential minerals to strengthen the tooth surface.
- When you need a quick snack, choose a nutritious food item like raw vegetables, a piece of fruit, milk or cheese.
Health professional advice people to eat a balanced diet that contains a moderate amount of fruits and vegetables that makes you healthy but it is up to you how you take care of your teeth after having your meal.
As we learned above, tooth erosion is an irreversible process. The wise thing is always to take the preventive measures to minimize the damage.
In mild cases where the acid erosion has just begun, use of remineralizing toothpaste or toothpaste with fluoride can help to strengthen the tooth. (4)
In severe cases, an aesthetic restoration with the help of dental materials like composite, ceramic veneers or crowns can suffice.
A dentist can assess the situation and provide you with the best options suitable for your dental condition.
If you are concerned about your aesthetics or are suffering from any symptoms of acid erosion contact your dentist immediately. (5)
Over to you
Education helps you to become aware and prevent the damage. Now that you learned about acid erosion and its effects on teeth start taking appropriate precautions.
Plan your diet or take professional help from a nutritionist to include foods that are good for your health as well as your teeth. Always eat in moderation.
Take care how long you take to finish a drink or food. Make sure to rinse your mouth after every meal. That is the least that you can do to prevent tooth erosion.