Acid Wear: A 21st Century threat to teeth

By: Amy Pongrass

New research conducted nationally has revealed that Australians are unintentionally placing themselves at risk of an oral care issue known as Acid Wear. This condition can prematurely age the appearance of teeth and dentists are blaming the modern diet.

One third of Australians have yellowing teeth, a direct sign of Acid Wear, while 27 per cent of the population has dull-looking teeth, another indicator of our acidic diet and how it's affecting our appearance. The main culprits of an acidic diet include soft drinks (both diet and regular), citrus fruit juice, energy and sports drinks, citrus fruits, wine and salad dressings. The acids in these foods and drinks may temporarily soften the enamel on the surface of the tooth. Over time, Acid Wear can cause the teeth to lose their texture and lustre and may also lead to yellowing.

If you lead a healthy lifestyle and don't consume soft drinks or too much wine, you may still be at risk of Acid Wear. The warm water with lemon juice you sip first thing in the morning may be causing damage, especially if you sip it slowly. Another factor which may contribute to the degeneration of the teeth is an active lifestyle, as this often leads to dehydration which reduces the amount of saliva available to counteract the effect of Acid Wear on the tooth enamel. Dietician Geraldine Georgeou notes that frequent snacks consumed throughout the day may also play a role, as grazing on acidic foods and drinks can increase the time acids are in contact with your teeth, leading to continual acid exposure.

New research reveals how many Australians are consuming the following acidic products at least every second day:

Acidic food or drinkFrequency
Citrus fruit juiceMore than one in three (32%)
Non diet soft drinksMore than one quarter (27%)
Salads with salad dressingMore than one quarter (27%)
Diet soft drinksJust over one in five (21%)
WineJust over one in five (21%)

There are ways to prevent Acid Wear from affecting your teeth, while still consuming some acidic foods and drinks as part of a balanced diet.

  • Avoid soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks. Not only are they nutritionally empty and high in calories and sugar, the acidic nature of these beverages is one of the main contributors to Acid Wear.
  • Consume acidic foods and drinks quickly, limiting the time they are in contact with your teeth.
  • Use a straw, and don't hold the liquid in your mouth or swish it around.
  • Drink plenty of water, which helps maintain hydration levels as well as flushing acid remnants away from the teeth.
  • Avoid brushing teeth straight after consuming acidic foods or drinks because this is when enamel is at its softest and most prone to breakdown.
  • Have regular dental checkups

    Some foods may also protect against Acid Wear, such as dairy, which may help raise the pH levels in the mouth leading to a more alkaline environment. Dairy foods are also good sources of calcium and phosphate which may encourage remineralisation.

    All foods increase saliva production, and since saliva contains chemicals that buffer acids, this helps to stabilise the pH levels in the mouth to just above 7, which is more alkaline than acidic. Foods rich in fibre may also stimulate salivary excretion which helps to clean the surface of the tooth.

    So there are ways to minimise risk of Acid Wear on your teeth and still enjoy a range of foods and drinks. If you like to start the day with a warm glass of water and lemon juice, drink it all at once and follow with a glass of water. Don't brush your teeth straight after, rather, enjoy a breakfast of high fibre muesli, fruit and yoghurt, chewing slowly to increase saliva flow and remineralise the teeth.

    References: GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Research Sepetmeber 2007, distributed by Cube PR


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