Preventing acid burnout of your teeth
The standard advice for maintaining healthy teeth and gums is: Brush twice and floss once daily. The purpose of these daily brushings and flossing is to prevent the formation of plaque. Plaque is a yellowish-white sticky substance that forms when bacteria thrive on food debris left in the mouth after meals. The bacteria excrete strong acids that demineralize the tooth enamel.
Tooth enamel is a very hard substance composed almost entirely of calcium salts. The hardness of enamel is an important property since it serves as the surface for chewing, grinding, and crushing of food, thus at the same time protecting the softer underlying dentin (the main portion of the tooth structure). As the acid dissolves the enamel, it starts to break it down. This is the start of a cavity.
Plaque is one source of acid erosion you must guard against. But there is another very important source that is frequently overlooked. It is the acids in a wide variety of drinks we consume. These acids can dissolve tooth enamel just as surely as plaque. The main culprits are:
- Soft Drinks and Sports Drinks. These are carbonized to make them fizzy at the expense of making them acidic. In addition, colas contain phosphoric acid.
- Citrus Juices. Juices such as orange and grapefruit juices at full strength are highly acidic.
- Chewable Vitamin C Tablets. Vitamin C is pure ascorbic acid.
Recommendations for Preventing Acid Erosion from Drinks
- Drink quickly: Sipping acidic drink slowly or swishing it about in your mouth before swallowing gives it more time to attack your tooth enamel.
- Dilute fruit juices: This is especially important if you drink juices frequently.
- Reduce frequency: Having a Coke once in a while is all right but don’t make it a frequent habit.
- Be a smart shopper: Never give your children chewable multivitamins containing vitamin C.
- Rinse your mouth with water after consuming acidic drinks.