We all enjoy eating food and drinking all sorts of beverages!
Did you ever wonder why certain foods and/or drinks are better than others when it comes to dental health?
When we talk about “dental-friendly” foods, the first variable that typically pops into our mind is… SUGAR
There is an additional, very important, factor to consider when deciding what to munch on… pH! (acidic content)
Q: Why should you be concerned with the pH of your food/drink selection?
A: It can cause irreversible wear of your teeth!
● Definition: irreversible loss of tooth structure due to chemical dissolution by acids not of bacterial origin
● Most common chronic disease of children ages 5–17 years old
○ We give our children fruit juices, because they are thought to be “healthy”
● Erosion initially begins in the enamel, causing it to become thin, and can progress into the dentin (second
layer of the tooth), giving the tooth a dull yellow appearance and leading to sensitivity
● Most common cause of erosion is by acidic food and drinks (pH <5.7 triggers dental erosion)
○ lowers the pH level of the mouth resulting in demineralization
○ orange juice (contains citric acid), sports drinks, soda, wine (pH as low as 3-3.8), beer
○ fresh fruits, ketchup and pickled food in vinegar
○ other possible sources of erosive acids are from exposure to chlorinated swimming pool water and regurgitation of gastric acids – see physician to treat underlying medical cause
Frequently ingested food/drink below pH 5.7 may initiate dental erosion. It can take up to 35-40 minutes for saliva to remineralize teeth after food/drink intake.
● Frequency rather than total intake of acidic juices is seen as the greater factor in dental erosion; infants using feeding bottles containing fruit juices (especially when used as a comforter) are therefore at greater risk of acid erosion
● Saliva acts as a buffer, regulating the pH when acidic drinks are ingested
● Something I always teach my patients– the importance of saliva for preventing wear and decay!
Prevention and Management
● Identify the etiology or cause
○ Excessive dietary intake of acidic foods or beverages
○ Education is key
● Reducing the frequency of acidic and sweet food and beverage intake. This decreases the sugar/acid
exposure time and allows the eroded tooth surface to reharden
● Drinking through a straw to reduce contact between erosive fluids and teeth
● Avoiding abrasive forces. Use a soft bristled toothbrush and brush gently.
○ Avoid brushing immediately after consuming acidic food and drink as teeth will be softened.
○ Leave at least half an hour of time in between. Rinsing with water is better than brushing after consuming acidic foods and drinks
● Applying fluoride gels or varnishes can increase enamel hardness and increase resistance to softening
As always, consult your dentist if you have any questions or concerns about your dental health.
Early detection is key for a lifetime of health, not just for the mouth, but for the entire body!