By now after decades of dental education, most people know sugar can wreak havoc on their teeth. Many people looking to decrease their sugar intake switch to diet soft drinks over high calorie sugary ones. But are they making a better decision for their teeth? The science tells us they’re not.
A recent study from the University of Melbourne’s Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre found sugar-free drinks can cause significant damage to tooth enamel too. Researchers found sugar-free drinks can soften enamel by 30 to 50 percent. The researchers tested 23 different kinds of beverages, including sodas and performance drinks, finding that drinks with acidic additives and low pH levels can damage the enamel regardless of whether they contain sugar or not.
Another study from the Appalachian College of Pharmacy in Oakwood Ca confirmed no correlation between the amount of sugar in a beverage and the amount of erosion. Instead a significant correlation was found between the amount of titratable acid and the percentage of tooth erosion. In fact, of the 19 varieties of sodas this group tested, four of the top five sodas with the highest erosion percentage were diet drinks.
“Many people are not aware that while reducing your sugar intake does reduce your risk of dental decay, the chemical mix of acids in some foods and drinks can cause the equally damaging condition of dental erosion,” professor Eric Reynolds, one of the study authors and the CEO of the Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre, said in a statement. Dental erosion happens when acid dissolves the hard tissues of the tooth, Reynolds explained. “In its early stages erosion strips away the surface layers of tooth enamel. If it progresses to an advanced stage it can expose the soft pulp inside the tooth,” he said.
Sodas aren’t the only thing that can cause you to lose tooth enamel:
- Acidic food/drink- even otherwise healthy foods like oranges and lemons can be high in acid
- Over aggressive brushing- be sure to use soft bristle brushes and brush in gentle circular manner. Replace brushes once they become splayed.
- Bulimia Nervosa- frequent vomiting exposes teeth to stomach acids.
- Reflux/GERD- acidic juices in the stomach come into contact with the mouth and, over time, break down your teeth.
- Plaque- plaque’s stickiness keeps the acids against your teeth’s surface where it has more of an opportunity to break down the tooth enamel.
- Bite issues- grinding or clenching can cause teeth to wear or fracture
Not so fun fact: People who grind their teeth and eat an acidic diet are even more vulnerable to erosion. An acidic diet plus teeth grinding can accelerate tooth wear 7-10 times.
Can’t give up your soft drinks? Remember these tips to reduce acid erosion caused by them:
- Don’t sip throughout the day. It’s better to drink it in one sitting so your saliva has more chance to wash away the acid
- Drink with meals
- Drink through a straw
- Don’t swish
- Drink water afterwards
- Don’t brush immediately after consuming acidic foods or drink. Wait at least 30 minutes to allow your mouth to produce enough saliva to neutralize the acidity and allow the enamel to harden.
The good news: If caught early products like Pronamel or MI paste can re-mineralize teeth if the process has just begun, but once the enamel is lost it is gone forever.
Regular dental visits are important to maintain your dental health. Contact our office at 215-772-3100 to schedule an appointment today.