The enamel that covers our teeth is the strongest substance in the human body. Yet it is still prone to damage.
The modern American diet is especially problematic for teeth. There are foods, drinks, and oral behaviors that can damage enamel and lead to a challenge that can affect both the look of your teeth and their function: tooth erosion. However, the cause of diet related tooth erosion may not be what you think.
If you’re concerned that you may have tooth erosion, contact Dr. Peabody at 831-457-0343 – the leading choice for Santa Cruz dental care.
What is Tooth Erosion?
When we talk about teeth, “erosion” is any weakening or damage to the tooth enamel that occurs gradually over time. That erosion means that your teeth are no longer as protected by the strong enamel material, causing them to be more at risk for issues that include:
- Yellow Teeth
- Tooth Pain or Sensitivity
- Tooth Cracking or Cavities
Tooth erosion can quickly become a serious problem, and that is why it is so important for people to be aware of what they can do to reduce the risk.
Causes of Tooth Erosion – the Acids We Eat
Erosion is caused by acids in the mouth. Many different foods and beverages contain acid that can potentially damage teeth. But in most cases, your mouth is ready. Saliva is equipped with calcium that gives your enamel back much of the strength that the acids take away.
But it’s imperfect. Saliva can only repair a specific amount of acid. If you have too much acid in your mouth, your saliva cannot keep up and erosion will occur.
That’s why what causes tooth erosion is not necessarily just the presence of acid in food, but rather specifically what you eat/drink and what happens to your body afterward when you do. Causes of erosion include:
- Sodas – Carbonated beverages, especially soda and sparkling juice, contain a significant amount of acid. That acid is also compounded with a substantial amount of sugar, which allows bacteria to thrive and create more acid. To put it in perspective, a donut has 11 grams of sugar. Soft drinks like Sprite have 44 grams, along with other acid producing compounds.
- Sour Candies – Sour candies can also cause tooth erosion. Once again, there are two reasons for this. The first is that sour candies are naturally high in acid, with a low pH that is already damaging to enamel. The second reason is that they tend to stay in your mouth longer, thus affecting your enamel for a longer period of time.
- Acid Reflux – Another issue that causes tooth erosion comes not necessarily from high acid foods, but from our choice in diet. Some foods may be low in acid, but they may trigger acid reflux (GERD). Food in someone’s stomach causes them to have “refluxes” where the stomach acids move up the esophagus and back in the mouth. That acid can be very damaging to teeth.
- Alcohol – Alcohol is naturally acidic. One or two beverages is unlikely to cause much erosion, but binge drinking can lead to severe erosion. Those that vomit or get acid reflux when they drink may also be more prone to erosion.
There are other issues that may cause dental erosion as well, including low saliva volume, tooth grinding, bulimia, or even brushing your teeth too hard. But it is diet that is going to have the greatest effect on whether or not your enamel breaks down.
How Can You Prevent or Eliminate Erosion?
Dental erosion causes both cosmetic and health challenges to teeth, so it is important to try to reduce the risk factors as best you can. That means:
- Eliminate carbonated or sugary beverages or use a straw it doesn’t touch teeth.
- Consider skipping the acidic candies.
- Figure out your acid reflux trigger foods and remove them from your diet.
- Drink water and chew gum to neutralize acids in the mouth.
- Brush your teeth after eating with a fluoride-containing toothpaste.
You should also make sure that you treat any behavioral issues that may be leading to tooth erosion, and that you always see a dentist. Dr. Peabody can help see if your teeth are struggling with erosion early, and give you the treatments you need to keep your teeth white, shiny, and healthy.
Contact us today at any time to schedule your appointment. 831-457-0343