Limit Oral Acid That Can Erode Tooth Enamel.

Posted on May 23, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Americans love a beautiful smile. While a gap in a smile is unappealing, what occurs below the gum line can be detrimental to one’s overall health.
Losing a natural tooth means its roots are no longer present in the jaw bone. This leaves an absence of stimulation to the jaw bone that helped to maintain healthy bone mass. When the jaw bone declines in height, the teeth on either side are at risk.
As a periodontist, an area of my specialty is in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. One of the reasons we recommend dental implants to replace natural teeth is their ability to recreate stimulation to the jaw bone. In addition to adding to the appearance of a smile, your smile’s health is important to many aspects of your health, including longevity.
Studies are finding that adults who lose teeth have shorter lifespans. For instance, a study cited in Dentistry Today (Feb. 2017) shared results of assessment of over 15,000 adults. They had follow-ups after 3 and a half years.
“After adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors and socioeconomic status, every increase in category of tooth loss was associated with a 6% increased risk of major cardiovascular events, 85% increased risk of cardiovascular death, 81% increased risk of all-cause death, and 67% increased risk of stroke. The risk increase was linear, with the highest risk in those with no remaining teeth.”
In our attempts to live healthy, long lives, people are more conscious these days of what they eat, the importance of staying active, and preventive screening. Obviously, keeping natural teeth and having good oral health is an integral part of overall health.
In this article, I’d like to focus on an area that can increase the risk of tooth loss, yet is oft-unknown – oral acidity.
The digestive process begins in the mouth. While chewing, oral acids are added to saliva. These acids begin to break foods down so, once swallowed, stomach acids continue the process.
While these digestive acids are highly beneficial, they can be challenging to tooth enamel, so strong it can soften tooth enamel. And this happens every time you eat or drink. Once activated, the acid flow lasts 20 – 30 minutes. So, when you begin munching popcorn while watching a movie, the acid attack doesn’t subside until a half-hour after you have the last handful.
As potent as oral acids are, the potency becomes even worse when mixed with acidic foods and beverages. Foods and beverages such as citrus, tomatoes, coffee, spicy foods, and colas ramp up the level of acidity taking place in the mouth.
We believe that knowing what poses risks to your teeth can help you be more proactive in avoiding weakened enamel. These include:
• Colas: One of the biggest challenges for teeth is sipping a cola over an extended period of time. From the first sip, your mouth is getting a double dose of acid — from both natural digestive acids AND from the acidity in the beverage. When these colas are sweetened, you get a double-dose of harm to teeth. Sugar sets off a process that breaks down tooth enamel while super-charging the reproduction of oral bacteria.
• Between-Meal Snacking: As mentioned above, eating or drinking triggers an acid attack in the mouth. This means for every time you take a sip of cola or take a bite of a cookie, acid flows freely for 20-30 minutes. When the mouth endures these frequent acid attacks, the damage to precious tooth enamel will catch up to you in the form of cavities.
• Citrus & Highly-acidic Foods & Beverages: The acidity in citrus (such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit) can be tough on tooth enamel and tender gum tissues. This also includes tomatoes and tomato-based foods such as spaghetti sauce, catsup, salsa, etc. that can have a highly acidic effect.
• Sugar & Carbohydrates: Americans are the top nation for consuming sugar. We also love our carbs. Oral bacteria love these foods, too, because they are their ‘super food’ that boosts their ability to reproduce. Because many sweet and carb-laden foods stick to teeth longer, their ability to cause damage is even greater.
• Alcohol & Caffeine: Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages (including coffee, tea, colas, and many energy drinks) can be very drying to oral tissues. A dry mouth means less saliva flow. This depletes saliva’s ability to effectively rinse oral bacteria from the mouth. This provides oral bacteria with an environment to more-rapidly breed and thrive. Since bacteria accumulation is the origin of the majority of oral problems, this creates an especially risky state.
• Wine: Although wine is believed to be a healthy drink, it is the way it is consumed that makes it a particular problem for teeth and gums. Whenever you eat or drink something, an acid attack begins in the mouth. While this is an initial part of digestion, this acid is potent. So much so that it can soften tooth enamel for 20-30 minutes, which leaves teeth more susceptible to decay. Most people drink wine in sips over a period of time, drawing out this surge of acid. When wine’s acidity combines with digestive acids in the mouth, you place teeth at a doubly higher risk for decay.
Now you know WHY you should limit or avoid certain foods and pace your eating to lower the number of acid
attacks (and their severity) your smile endures during the day. Here are four tips to remember:
1). Wait a half an hour after eating or drinking before brushing. The abrasiveness of tooth paste and toothbrush bristles can easily wear down enamel while in this softened state. 
2). When brushing isn’t convenient, swish with plain water or take large swallows of water that wash over teeth until it’s safe to brush. This will dilute the acids in your mouth.
3) Limit your snacks. Even when eating low acid, low sugar foods, tooth enamel is vulnerable to the damage of frequent acid attacks. When snacking, keep choices healthy. 
4). Drink plenty of water to keep the mouth moist so saliva can easily move acids and bacteria-forming particles out of the mouth quickly.
In addition, monitor your gum health by knowing the warning signs of periodontal (gum) disease. Although the initial stage of gum disease (gingivitis) may exist without obvious symptoms, common signs of gum disease include:
• Swollen or puffy gums
• Bright red or purplish gums
• Gums that feel tender or bleed easily
• Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing
• Frequent or persistent bad breath
• Pus pockets between some teeth and gums
• Loose teeth or a change in the way teeth fit
• Painful chewing
• Gums that pull away from teeth or are sensitive to heat and/or cold
Periodontitis, an advanced stage of gum disease, is the nation’s leading cause of tooth loss. Too, the bacteria of periodontitis can enter the bloodstream through diseased gum tissues. It can trigger inflammatory reactions that have been associated with serious health conditions. Periodontitis is linked with stroke, arthritis, coronary artery disease and problems controlling blood sugar in diabetes.
The body’s health and your smile should work together for a healthier you! If you have signs of gum disease – the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss – it will only worsen without treatment. Call our Asheville periodontal dental office for an exam, or begin with a consultation. (828) 274-9440

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