DENTAL ACID EROSION
For years, dentists have warned patients about the decaying effects of cola and sugary, fizzy drinks on their teeth. Research shows that other drinks thought to be better --fruit juices, teas and energy drinks-- can also have harmful effects on teeth, even more so in the presence of orthodontic appliances! Sipping fluorescent-colored sports drinks, carbonated beverages and citric fruit juices bathe the teeth in harmful acids. The constant exposure strips the hard, protective enamel layer and could dissolve the entire tooth. "Cavities form when bacteria in the mouth mix with sugar, leading to decay. Erosion occurs when chemicals strip the mineral off the teeth. "The seriousness of the erosion is far more than decay," said Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a restorative dentistry professor at Temple University. "Erosion affects all teeth at once, as you can imagine acidic fluid is running through the entire mouth." This causes hypersensitivity, discoloration and cracks on the teeth. Serious cases require crowns or even dentures if entire teeth have disintegrated. Research in Europe has linked that acidic beverage consumption to increasing tooth erosion.
CITRIC JUICES: A study published this year in the Journal of Dentistry showed that orange juice decreased enamel hardness by 84 percent. Lemon, orange and grapefruit juice can strip away the enamel with their acidity. "We encourage adults if they're going to have kids drink fruit juices, which is good in a way, that they consume it all at once instead of sipping on it all day long," Stanford said. "We're not saying, 'Don't drink orange juice," Bassiouny said. "Don't drink orange juice, then go to the office, then have a diet soda at lunchtime. You are asking for trouble because of the frequency of the contact and the challenge of the acid contact to your teeth."
ENERGY DRINKS: Researchers at the University of Iowa's College of Dentistry found that energy drinks and sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Red Bull, eroded the enamel more than soda and fruit juices. Power drinks can be quite acidic, usually because there is an addition of citric acid to those to give it the tartness that is desired by some consumers.
SODA (including Diet): Dentists have warned for years the perils of carbonated beverages. But don't disregard diet drinks. The lack of sugar in these products doesn't mean they don't erode the teeth, Bassiouny said. Carbonation could make the drink more acidic, he said. A patient whom Bassiouny examined had drunk a liter of diet soda every day for the last three years. He likened her teeth to those of a methamphetamine user. The corrosive chemicals from the drug can cause extensive oral damage commonly known as "meth mouth," in which teeth decay, crack and crumble.
TEA: Teas, sometimes considered a super food because of their antioxidant content, can cause tooth erosion, but not as much as citric juices, soda and energy and sports drinks. Avoid sugary canned teas.
TIPS TO MINIMIZE DENTAL ACID EROSION
- Practice moderation! Keep consumption of acidic beverages to fewer than five servings a week!
- Drink acidic and carbonated beverage in one sitting, instead of sipping it all day; use a straw to avoid immersing the teeth in acidic liquid
- Substitute acidic and carbonated beverages with water
- Rinse the mouth with water after drinking an acidic beverage instead of brushing, as the bristles of a toothbrush may damage the enamel.