Acid erosion is the irreversible loss of tooth structure ( predominately enamel) due acid exposure from sources other than the acid produced by bacteria. Acid erosion can occur with exposure to a pH at or under 5. Dental acid erosion, although common, has only recently been recognized as a dental health problem.
Causes of acid erosion:
- strawberries, raspberries, oranges, grapefruit
- fruit juices
- soft drinks (check the label: one of the predominate ingredients is phosphoric acid)
- carbonated water
- energy drinks
- gastric acids (exposure from bulimia or acid reflux)
Signs of acid erosion:
- Teeth appear to have smooth surface texture; healthy teeth have texture on the surface of enamel.
- Deeper spaces between teeth appear that catch food more readily.
- Flattened cusp tips that appear scooped out (see Parts of a Tooth).
- The edges of the front teeth appear transparent.
- The teeth appear darker (as enamel thins during the erosion process, the darker color of dentin gives the tooth a darker color.)
- Fillings appear as if they are standing out above the tooth; as enamel wears, the filling will not wear (especially silver fillings) and appears as if it is standing out above the tooth.
- Teeth appear shorter (teeth start to wear and appear wider than they are long).
- Sensitivity: enamel has no feeling and as enamel thins, the sensitive dentin can react to hot, cold and sweets.
- Teeth that fracture or crack more easily can be attributed to acid erosion.
- Decay can move more rapidly through enamel once it is thinned; decay spreads once it reaches the under substructure called dentin.
Contributing factors to acid erosion
- Clenching and Grinding your Teeth (Bruxism) – softened enamel will wear faster when combined with grinding or clenching your teeth
- Brushing: when using a hard or medium toothbrush (or aggressive brushing with a soft toothbrush)
- Continuous consumption of acidic foods and drinks throughout the day
- Habitual swishing of acidic liquids
Prevention of acid erosion
- Rinse with water after consuming acidic foods and beverages.
- Use remineralizing agents to replace lost minerals from the enamel; these are found in the form of toothpastes, mouthwashes, fluoride products and professional fluoride treatments.
- Drink acidic beverages through a straw.
- Seek medical attention for the underlying conditions of reflux disease, anorexia or bulimia.
- Avoid continuous consumption of acidic foods without rinsing to dilute the acid.
The Mouth/Body Connection
Although some healthy foods cause acid erosion, the problem is manageable in order to preserve the integrity of the dentition. The teeth are an integral part of overall health, so their preservation is critical. Digestion begins in the mouth with the pre-digestion of fats and carbohydrates. If we are unable to properly chew our foods and send that food to the stomach in the proper state of digestion, health can be compromised. Many individuals think of teeth as only a smile, however teeth are much more than just a smile. The primary role of teeth is to begin digestion through proper chewing and emulsification of foods.