Protect your teeth from acid erosion

By Whyte OrthodonticsUncategorized05 Oct 2017

Sugary lollies


Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies and forms a protective coating of our teeth. However, at only a couple of millimetres in thickness, it is prone to damage and erosion.

Every time you eat or drink anything acidic, the enamel is softened and loses some of its mineral content. Our saliva acts to neutralise acid and protect enamel, however regular acid attacks over time can lead to tiny pieces of enamel being worn away. Clenching and grinding teeth already softened by acid erosion can accelerate enamel loss.

Below the hard enamel surface is the “dentine” or hard dense bony tissue forming the bulk of a tooth. Tissue exposed due to wear can cause increased sensitivity to heat and cold, or acidic food and drinks.

Acidity is measured by its ‘pH value’ on a scale from 1 to 14, with 1 being most acidic, and 14 being alkaline. A healthy mouth is in a neutral pH range at the midway point of 7, at a pH of 5.5 the teeth begin to demineralize, putting them at risk of cavities.

Certain foods drop the pH level and increase the acidity of our mouths – including citrus fruits and juice, soft drink, sports drinks and wine. To protect our teeth, we should minimise sugary drinks and snacks in our diet. Saliva helps to neutralise acid, but it can take time for the pH to return to neutral and meanwhile the lower pH creates an optimal environment for bad bacteria which causes tooth decay.

Drinking water is the best option for healthy teeth and milk as an alkaline can also help cancel out acids in our mouths. Fluoride toothpastes have a pH of about 6.6 and regular brushing is important.

Acid production occurs in a number of ways, most commonly from the sugary things we eat and drink, however, medicines such as chewable vitamin C tablets, aspirin or antihistamines can also contribute, as well as low saliva, acid reflux, or genetics.

Environmental factors such as friction, stress and grinding of the teeth can also heighten the rate of tooth loss and decrease saliva production leading to greater risk from acid damage in the mouth. Even the way you brush your teeth may contribute to enamel loss. Brushing too hard or too often can wear away the enamel, causing your teeth to become sensitive.

Acid erosion can lead to serious problems so it is important to notice the signs of tooth erosion in its early stages before more severe damage occurs. Things to watch for include:

  • Sensitivity – as the protective enamel wears away, you may experience pain when consuming hot or cold food or drink.
  • Discoloration – yellowing teeth are a sign the underlying dentine is becoming exposed due to erosion of the outer enamel.
  • Damage – cracks or roughness may appear especially at the edges of our teeth as a result of erosion.

Though enamel can’t be replaced, there are three main ways to treat eroded teeth:

Bonding is a cosmetic procedure which can be used in milder cases of enamel erosion. A tinted resin is applied to the damaged tooth and trimmed and polished to fit your mouth.

Crowns are used in more serious cases of enamel loss to cap the tooth and protect damaged areas. A crown can restore function to a damaged tooth, allowing you to eat and drink without pain as well as protecting against further decay.

We can work with a specialist restorative dentist or prosthodontist in protecting or repairing your teeth from acid erosion. If you have noticed any of the signs of potential enamel erosion or have any concerns about your dental health, ask your dentist or our staff for more information.

If you have noticed any of the signs of potential enamel erosion or have any concerns about your dental health, contact Whyte Orthodontics or see your dentist.