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The Danger in Your Grocery Cart

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The acid sugar bath that leads to tooth erosion

In our quest to eat right and become healthier there may be a hidden danger in our grocery cart – juice.  It’s not just the amount of sugar, but the acidity of most juice drinks and their severely damaging effect on your teeth that may take you by surprise.  Taken together, combining the juice sugars to the acid fluid bath can be deadly for your vulnerable little teeth.

Most fruit juices, fizzy teas and sports or energy drinks may be delicious to drink but each mouthful covers your teeth in acidic liquid that is harmful to the outer protective layer of your teeth.  And what do we usually do?  We’ve become a nation of sippers – sipping our drinks and keeping teeth bathed in acid and sugar for hours over the course of a day.  Over time, and with continued exposure to acid drinks, that layer, called enamel, weakens, thins and dissolves, leaving teeth hypersensitive, discolored, cracked and open to attack by decay-causing bacteria. That is the typical progression of tooth erosion damage.

Tooth damage from sipping juice and sodas often starts in childhood.  While juice may be healthier than soda, most have an acidity level of 2.73 – 3.65.  And researchers at the University Of Iowa College Of Dentistry have found that energy and sports drinks erode the enamel more than juice or soda.  The normal pH of a healthy mouth is about 7.4 – neutral or slightly alkaline.  (Find out some common drink pH levels here.)

The scary part is that erosion pattern from acidic drinks affects not just one or two teeth – it can damage all of your teeth at the same time. Dentists are seeing more and more of this type of tooth erosion in people of all ages.  Unfortunately, severe erosion may require treatment of restoring damaged teeth with full coverage crowns, or may even lead to extractions if the majority of tooth structure is dissolved.

How to prevent tooth erosion from acidic drinks

It may seem counter-intuitive but one of the worst things you can do after drinking acidic juice drinks or carbonated soda is to brush your teeth.  The acid weakens the enamel for up to an hour after consumption, and brushing within that time period will actually hasten the destruction of your enamel.

What can help is:

  1. Sip any acidic drinks through a straw to minimize contact with the teeth
  2. Drink water (swish and swallow) after finishing your juice, soda or fizzy tea
  3. Enjoy acidic drinks with meals to decrease the acid effect
  4. Chew sugar-free gum to increase the flow of saliva and help neutralize the acid
  5. For children, replace that juice in the sipper cup with water

Regular dental exams will evaluate for enamel erosion and damage, while professional cleanings will help keep your teeth clear of bacteria.  Topical fluoride treatments can help strengthen your tooth enamel and may even repair mild damage before it becomes too serious.  Call us today if you want to learn more about the danger of acid drinks, or have questions about tooth erosion and how you can stop further damage.