You already know that consuming too many sugary products can damage your teeth, but did you know that drinks high in acidity can also be detrimental? Anything with a pH less than 7 is considered to be acidic and over time, they can wear down the strong outer layer that protects your teeth (enamel) causing permanent tooth erosion.
Since enamel isn’t a living cell, it doesn’t naturally repair itself. That’s why it’s important to get to know what’s happening to your teeth when you drink something acidic.
How do acidic drinks affect tooth enamel?
Enamel is the strongest material in the human body (even stronger than your bones), but it can be destroyed if you consume too many acidic food and drinks, such as fruit, yoghurt and soft drinks.
These acids dissolve the mineral structure of the teeth, causing them to get thinner. With repeated exposure to acid, the enamel loses its shape and colour and eventually the underlying dentin is exposed, which makes the teeth look yellow. Taking preventative measures early on is essential to avoid erosion and support long-term oral health.
What happens when enamel starts to wear away?
Tooth erosion is permanent. Not only does it affect the appearance of your teeth, but it also makes your teeth more susceptible to bacteria that can cause tooth decay or infection.
If you’re experiencing erosion, any of the following could happen:
- Pain or sensitivity when consuming hot or cold drinks
- Tooth discolouration
- There is a greater risk of developing cavities
- Some people may develop an abscess (this is in extreme cases)
- Tooth loss (also in extreme cases)
Once erosion sets in, you might need to get fillings, crown, a root canal, or extraction in very serious cases. Some patients also consider veneers to restore the aesthetics of their smile.
Tips to protect your teeth
The more acidic a drink is, and the more regularly you consume them, the greater the damage. Luckily, there are some tips to protect your smile while enjoying your favourite beverages in moderation.
- Avoid putting lemon in all the water you drink
- Don’t swish or hold soft drinks in the mouth before swallowing
- When consuming acidic drinks, wait 20 minutes before brushing your teeth to avoid damaging the weakened enamel
- Only consume acidic drinks at mealtimes and not throughout the day, to minimise the time that acid is on the teeth
- Minimise the following acidic drinks: coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, alcohol (particularly wine), juice (especially citrus juice), sports drinks, soft drinks (even sugar-free varieties), lemon water
- Rinse with water after consuming acidic beverages
- Use a straw to help direct acidic drinks past the teeth
- Chew sugar-free gum, which can stimulate saliva production which removes some of the acid
- Brush teeth every day and maintain good oral hygiene