Protect Your Teeth By Limiting Acidity

Posted on May 31, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

It is said that we are what we eat. When it comes to your smile, your teeth are a testament of that statement. What you eat and drink can leave teeth vulnerable to decay.

Many people are unaware of just how damaging certain foods and beverages can be to teeth. Some of the worst ones are listed below. Knowing in advance that these consumables can leave teeth and gums at higher risk for problems can help you take proactive and preventive measures.

• 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.

• 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.

While I would never assume that people should forgo some indulgences, you can take proactive measures to prevent costly repairs, such as:

  –  Brush twice daily, floss every day and maintain regular dental check-ups: Thorough at-home oral care and regular dental check-ups can help you avoid problems from occurring in the first place.

  –  Delay brushing after eating or drinking: Wait 20-30 minutes to allow the acid attack in your mouth to subside. Remember, this acid can soften tooth enamel. The abrasiveness of a tooth brush or tooth paste can wear away precious tooth enamel.

  –  Swish with water: Enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Just remember to rotate these beverages with a glass of water, allowing it to wash over teeth before swallowing. Or, swish with water in the bathroom.

  –  Eat sweets only with meals: Rather than forgo a sweet indulgence as a snack, enjoy them as dessert following your meal since your mouth is already enduring an acid attack. This merely prolongs an acid attack rather than trigger a new one.

As a periodontal specialist, I see many patients who have lost their natural teeth. I believe many people are not aware of what creates a vulnerable smile. Knowing what leaves teeth and gums susceptible to problems can help you avoid the treatment time and expense required for dental repairs, or even tooth loss.

To achieve and maintain a confident, healthy smile, begin with a consultation. Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.

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