Dental Erosion: Consume Pickles, Lemons and Soft Drinks in Moderation
Frequently consuming foods with a low pH value, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, pickles, fresh fruit and yogurt can lead to irreversible dental erosion, according to a report in the January/February 2005 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry’s (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal. Dental erosion is the breakdown of tooth structure caused by the effect of acid on the teeth. Dental enamel is the thin, outer layer of hard tissue that helps maintain the tooth’s structure and shape while protecting it from decay.
“A low pH environment in the mouth helps contribute to dental erosion,” says Samantha Shipley, DDS, and lead author of the report.
pH (potential of hydrogen) is a standard way to measure the acidity of a substance. It is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. A lower pH means that a solution contains more acid. The higher the pH, the more alkaline (or non-acidic) the solution. When a solution is neither acid nor alkaline, it has a pH of 7, which is neutral.
When acidic food or drink is consumed the enamel will soften for a short amount of time. Typically, saliva slowly helps to restore the natural balance of the acid in the mouth. If foods high in acid are consumed on an excessive basis, the mouth can’t repair itself and there is a greater chance for dental erosion, says Dr. Shipley.
“As the availability of soft drinks increase so does the amount of erosion in our population,” says Dr. Shipley. “The primary action patients can take to decrease their likelihood of erosion is to reduce consumption of sugary sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks.”
“Vegetarian diets and diets in which fruit comprises more than two-thirds of the total food intake also makes patients more susceptible to erosion,” says Dr. Shipley. “Erosion can also be caused by stomach acids introduced into the mouth through vomiting and acid reflux.”
“These findings are important and suggest that caution should be exercised when consuming certain foods over long periods of time,” says AGD spokesperson Cynthia E. Sherwood, DDS.
Acids found in common foods:
- Soft drinks – phosphoric acid
- Fruit and fruit products – citric and malic acids
- Fermented products (yogurt) – lactic acid
- Grapes and wines – tartaric acid
After eating or drinking:
- Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow.
- Rinse with water for 30 seconds.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste.