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Glass of Cola with a Straw in It

The problems of tooth decay and sugar are well publicised and there are not many who do not now recognise the need to avoid sugary foods and drinks with the aim preventing cavities.

However, a growing concern in dentistry is the effects of dietary acids on teeth. Over time, acid can erode the enamel of teeth. As the enamel thins a number of problems may occur. The teeth can start to look translucent and unsightly, sometimes looking yellow as more of the inner dentine shows through. Combined with the frictional forces of chewing and grinding, the teeth can start to wear down. Furthermore, as the enamel protection starts to weaken, teeth can become sensitive and will become more susceptible to decay.

The most important safeguard is to know which foods and drinks are high in acid and to reduce the frequency of their consumption. Whilst listing every acid food or drink is impossible, the lists of foods high in acid include fruits, especially citrus fruits and pickled foods.

Drinks that are high in acid include fruit juices and fizzy drinks.  Any fizzy drink, including sparkling water, is produced by passing carbon dioxide through water which forms an acid. Of increasing concern is the growing popularity of high energy drinks and smoothies, all of which will have high levels of acid.

A non-dietary acid source may be the result of a medical condition such as acid reflux or an on-going problem that causes you to be sick. Body acids are very strong and will cause the same problems as dietary acids.

Wherever and whenever the sources of acid are identified, it is important to reduce the exposure. In the case of acidic foods and drink, liming their intake will reduce the risk of acid erosion. In the case of medical problems such as reflux, it is important to visit a medical practitioner to help diagnose and treat the condition. It is also worth noting that following an acid exposure, one should not brush their teeth for 1 hour to allow the acid levels in the mouth to drop.

Where the acid exposure is likely to continue to be high, or where there is a history of high acid exposure that has already started to thin the teeth, the best way of protecting the remaining enamel is by using a high fluoride mouthwash or toothpaste. Your dentist can advise you on the best product to use and how to use it most effectively.