Dental erosion, also known as erosive tooth wear, is caused by acid dissolving the surface of the teeth. This often leads people to experience sensitive teeth as the protective layer of enamel, which covers the dentine beneath, wears away. This causes discomfort when consuming hot, cold, sweet and particularly acidic food or drinks. Even breathing cold air can become uncomfortable! Once exposed, acid will dissolve the dentine layer much faster than it affected the tooth enamel originally. So booking regular checkups with your dentist is essential, to ensure this condition is diagnosed and treated promptly, or ideally prevented in the first place!
Avoid Sources of Dietary Acid
Now you are convinced that dental erosion and the ensuing tooth sensitivity should be avoided, it is important to identify potential sources of acid in your diet, so you can minimise the risk of dental erosion. The majority of acid within the mouth is a direct result of the food and drinks within your diet. The main sources of dietary acids typically come from the following:
- Soft drinks
- Energy drinks
- Fruit juices
- Sports drinks
- Fruit flavoured water
- Fruit flavoured tea
- Alcoholic drinks
- Citrus Fruits
- Sour lollies
- Chewable vitamin C tablets
Additionally, flavoured beverages advertised as sugar free drinks typically contain highly acidic additives. For the sake of your dental health, it is best to avoid drinks with the following ingredients:
- Citric acid
- Sodium citrate
- Malic acid
- Ascorbic acid
- Fruit juice concentrate
Health Conditions which Cause Additional Acid
Some health conditions can contribute to the amount of acid your teeth are exposed to. The following conditions can cause the acid which occurs naturally in the stomach to travel up the throat into the mouth, causing tooth erosion:
- (Post) vomiting
- Pregnancy (morning sickness)
- Anorexia nervosa
- Gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux)
- Gastroesophageal cancer
Alternative Causes of Dental Erosion
Unfortunately, even if you minimise the amount of acidic food and drink within your diet, you may still be at risk of erosive tooth wear, if you have low saliva flow. Saliva is necessary to neutralise acid in the mouth. This means if your body is not producing enough saliva, known as dry mouth, dietary acids won’t be washed away from the teeth effectively. Consequently, higher concentrations of acid will remain in the mouth, which cannot be neutralised, increasing the likelihood of dental erosion. There a several circumstances which can cause people to experience a dry mouth, such as:
- Ingesting (various) medications
- (Undergoing) radiotherapy for the head and neck
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
How to Prevent Dental Erosion
There are several precautions you can integrate into your daily life to prevent your tooth enamel from eroding. Foremost, eliminating acidic food and drink from your diet, will significantly reduce erosive wear on your teeth. If there are not many sources of acid within your diet but you are still concerned about developing sensitive teeth, check with both your dentist and doctor to determine if any medical conditions could be the cause.
While eliminating acidic food and drink from your diet entirely is not always feasible, you can make a conscious effort to minimise the damage:
- Aim to only ingest acidic food and drinks when eating a meal, as opposed to snacking or sipping during the day. Saliva flow increases during meal times, so your teeth will naturally be better protected during these periods.
- Eat whole fruits, instead of drinking fruit juice. Fruits which are low in acid such as banana, melon, paw paw and pear are great options.
- Use a straw when drinking acidic beverages, so the liquid bypasses your teeth.
- Ensure acidic drinks are chilled for consumption, as warm drinks will cause more erosion.
- Always rinse your mouth immediately after eating or drinking something acidic, vomiting or experiencing reflux. Use either water, milk or a fluoride rinse; but don’t brush your teeth! The acid will have softened the teeth, so brushing will actually cause more damage.
How to Minimise Erosion
If acid is an unavoidable aspect of your life, whether the source is your diet, stress, medication, or illness; ensure you brush your teeth at least twice a day. Choose a soft bristled toothbrush to minimise the effects of erosion, paired with a fluoride toothpaste.
What to do if you have Dental Erosion
If you believe you are suffering from dental erosion, visit the team at Dobson Dental. As dentists, we are able to offer high fluoride options to help repair areas, as needed, and can provide additional advice according to your individual needs.