The Sour Truth: Effects of Acid on Your Teeth

We can miss an important oral health fact if we think that sugar is the only thing bad for our teeth.  Sugar is dangerous because it feeds the bacteria that cause cavities.  It is important to understand, though, that it is not the sugar or the bacteria that are harmful to enamel.  It’s the acid they produce.

Acid is a tooth’s kryptonite.  It softens and dissolves enamel, the hardest substance in the human body.

Acid as the Cause of Cavities

The mechanism through which bacteria in dental plaque cause cavities is this: bacteria ingest sugar (from our food and drink intake) and produce acid.  Acid is the bacteria’s waste.  When dental plaque remains on the tooth, it holds the acid against the enamel, allowing it to break down the enamel surface.

The more dental plaque you have, the more bacteria it contains, and the more acid it can produce.  The more sugar you eat, the more you feed the bacteria, and the more acid they produce.

Acid Erosion

Acid erosion is the gradual dissolving away of hard tooth structure by the presence of strong acids in the mouth.  This can result from many different causes.  Patients who suffer from GI problems that allow strong stomach acid to enter the mouth.  This includes both vomiting and acid reflux.

Another source of acid that can lead to acid erosion is the diet.  People who consume large amounts of acidic foods and drinks are at risk for acid erosion.  Especially high risk are habits like sucking on limes and lemons or adding their juices to your drinks.

Many people are unaware of just how acidic most of our common beverages are.  Sodas, sparkling water, sports drinks and fruit juices are all highly acidic and place you at risk for acid erosion on the tooth.

How to Protect Against Acid

Acid can cause severe damage to teeth, both in the form of cavities and erosion.  This damage often requires expensive dental treatment to repair and restore the teeth to normal shape and functional.  You can prevent acid damage to the teeth!  Follow these steps to protect your teeth from acid.

  1. Avoid acidic foods and drinks outside of meals.

The easiest way to prevent acidic damage to the teeth is to avoid acidic items in your diet.  Drink plain water as much as possible, and only enjoy an acidic beverage with a meal.  Make sure to enjoy any citrus fruits or other acidic foods with other food to balance the pH.

  1. Use oral care products that fight acid.

The process through which acid damages enamel is called demineralization.  We can reverse that process through remineralization.  Many oral care products (toothpastes and mouthwash) contain powerful remineralizing agents, like fluoride, ACP, nanohydroxyapatite, and arginine.  There are also many prescription products available from your dentist.  Ask your dentist to recommend a specific product that is best for your unique needs.

  1. Support good salivary function/Fight dry mouth.

Saliva is the body’s natural defense against acid.  It neutralizes acid with its slightly alkaline pH.  If your mouth is unnaturally dry, then it is probably acidic.  Work to support healthy salivary function by chewing sugar-free gum, drinking plenty of water, and minimizing prescription medications for any health problems.  Speak with your doctor if your mouth is noticeably dry.

  1. Address GI problems.

Most people are unaware of the connection between problems in the stomach and the mouth.  In order to have a healthy, neutral mouth, you cannot allow acid reflux or frequent vomiting to occur.  If you suffer from one of these health problems, work with your medical doctor to get them under control.

More Questions about Acid Damage on the Teeth?

Call Timberlake Dental today at 940-382-1750 to schedule a visit with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any question you have about acid and its damaging effects on teeth.  He can also assess your current situation and help you make changes to protect and preserve your oral health.

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