Ever try to peel an egg without touching it? Not possible? Try placing it in vinegar for a few days. Dr Kathleen Ling from Highgate Hill Dental Centre explains how the same thing can happen to our teeth:
In this 21st century we are proud to say we have healthier teeth and our teeth are lasting longer. However, there has been a growing concern of a quiet ‘disease’ in our society, which is affecting the quality of our teeth, and that is dental erosion.
Dental erosion is an acid wear. It affects the quality of our teeth, thinning the enamel, causing the colour of our teeth to become more yellowish, and sometimes translucent near the insical edge of the teeth. For eroded molars and premolars, they usually appear notched on the cusps (the “pointy bits of the teeth) or the cervical (the “neck” of the tooth near the gum) area, and if there are any old amalgam fillings, they usually appear very proud and prominent. In severe cases dentine would be exposed, causing sensitivity and pain.
There are 2 sources of acid, which are either intrinsic or extrinsic:
Intrinsic acid is acid that comes out from our stomach, and thus erosion can usually be seen in patients with reflux problems, frequent vomiting like Bulimia and even to some extent during pregnancy.
Extrinsic acid usually comes from our diet. Change of lifestyles has changed the consumption of acidic food and beverages. There has been an increased consumption of energy drinks and soft drinks including diet coke, wine to name a few. Food and beverages with low pH can cause erosion when they are in contact with tooth surfaces. The lower the pH value, the higher the acidity (a pH of 1 is extremely acidic and a pH of 7 is neutral – like water). When the pH level is reduced to lower than the critical value of 5.5, it causes enamel demineralisation – where mineral starts leaking out of the outside layer of the tooth. The tables below show the pH of some common beverages and food. As you can see from these tables some food and beverages can be very acidic.
pH values of some common beverages (YF Ren, 2011)
|Carbonated drinks||pH||Juice||pH||Other Drinks||pH|
|Coke||2.7||Orange juice||3.4||Iced tea||3.0|
|Pepsi||2.7||Grapefruit juice||3.2||Fanta orange||2.9|
|7-up||3.2-3.5||Cranberry juice||2.3-2.5||Red bull||3.4|
|Mountain Dew||3.2||Pineapple juice||3.4||Isostar||2.4-3.8|
|Dr Pepper||2.9||Kiwi juice||3.6||Coffee||2.4-3.3|
|Lemon Nestea||3.0||Grape juice||3.4||Tea (black)||4.2|
|Root Beer||3.0-4.0||Carrot juice||4.2||Beer||4.0-5.0|
pH values of common foodstuffs (YF Ren, 2011)
|Apricots||3.2-3.6||Fruit jams/ jellies||3.0-4.0|
|Blueberries||3.2-3.5||Italian salad dressing||3.3|
Once enamel is gone, it can no longer grow back. Thus it is very important that you have some knowledge of it and prevent erosion from happening or worsening.
Here are a few tips that Dr. Kathleen would suggest:
- Drink plenty of water every day. Water helps to neutralise the acidity in our mouth and at the same time it can help to produce good quality saliva, which has an important protective element for our teeth.
- Cut down the consumption on acidic drinks including soft drinks, energy drinks and juice. Limit these drinks to meal times instead of sipping on them frequently throughout the day. Try drinking them from a straw as there will be less contact between acid and your teeth.
- Do not brush your teeth straight after consumption of any acidic drinks or food, as the mechanical action of tooth-brushing will help acid to remove more enamel away. Wait for at least one hour before you do so. Instead of tooth-brushing, rinse your mouth with plenty of water.
- If you already have some erosion problem, use “Toothmousse Plus” every night. With your finger, rub a pea size of Toothmousse on all surfaces of your teeth after brushing and flossing, and leave it overnight.
- Visit your dentist every six months for a proper check up. Talk to your dentist if you experience any teeth sensitivity or even have a chat about your diet, oral hygiene, etc to find ways to reduce the risk of erosion.
Ren YF. Dental Erosion: Etiology, Diagnosis and Prevention, a Peer Review Publication, 2011, pp 77.