The Problem of Dental Erosion- The Effects of Sugary Drinks and Foods on your Teeth
The summer is upon us, complete with graduation parties, vacations, and plenty of opportunities to indulge in food and drinks that could negatively affect your dental health. I am talking foods that cause dental erosion.
Have you ever noticed, after enjoying a soft drink or eating something acidic, that your teeth feel “funny”? This is probably dental erosion, a common dental problem associated with diet. Erosion is the dissolving of the enamel surfaces of the teeth by acids found in popular soft drinks, carbonated cola beverages, natural fruit juices, sports drinks and some foods.
This erosion is not the same as typical tooth decay (cavities), where the outer surface of the enamel is destroyed by the acid found in plaque. Typically, cavities are found in specific sites on the tooth surface and at the gum line. Dental (chemical) erosion will attack the entire exposed surface of the tooth and can cause long term dental problems.
Another difference between typical cavities and dental erosion is that tooth brushing, while effective in decay prevention and plaque removal, can actually make erosion even worse. This happens after excessive consumption of acidic foods and cola beverages, when the tooth surface actually becomes microscopically “softened”. Brushing may completely remove the affected tooth layer. Waiting 30-60 minutes before brushing will allow the saliva to neutralize the acid and the teeth to re-mineralize.
The problem of dental erosion is especially important for our children, since the enamel hasn’t been sufficiently exposed to fluoride. Fluoride makes the enamel harder and more resistant to acid dissolution.
What to do? Of course, the best plan would be to eliminate the “bad” foods and drinks in our diets and the diets of our children, but this is not always realistic. Use common sense. Reduce the frequency of these food and beverages, and try to limit them to mealtimes. Avoid prolonged swishing of these drinks in the mouth before swallowing and use a straw, which will limit the contact of the acid with your teeth. Finally, consult with your dentist to make sure that you and your family are getting the appropriate amounts of fluoride.