Everyone knows that sugars lead to tooth decay, but an acidic diet can leave teeth more prone to decay by wearing down the protective enamel. Tooth enamel starts to break down when exposed to acids with a pH value of about 5.5 to 5.2, but this is not a set value, it changes with other health and lifestyle factors. When dry mouth is a factor, for example, the acidity of the mouth is higher without sufficient saliva to weaken the acids and help remove food particles. With preventive care and regular checkups at your dental office, damage from acidic foods and beverages can be greatly reduced.
When considering acidic diets, many patients automatically think of traditionally acidic foods such as oranges and citrus fruits, juices, and vinegar in salad dressings. While these are most certainly among acidic foods, others such as coffee, tea, soda, soft drinks, sports drinks, and candy are all highly acidic and play a predominant role in enamel loss and tooth decay, especially with children. Soft drinks, sports drinks, and candies contain citric acid and other highly acidic ingredients to preserve or affect taste and color.
Coffee and tea have pH values close to the minimum that causes enamel loss, but soda, soft drinks, and candy can be more damaging that acid rain. Full-sugar soft drinks and candies bring a sugar factor; the acids wear down enamel and the sugar starts creating damage the longer it has contact with teeth. A family dentist will recommend opting for sugar-free alternatives, but warning that these alternatives contain just as much acid content as the full-sugar varieties, making them only slightly less damaging.
A common problem associated with acidic diets is heartburn and GERD, also known as acid-reflux. The acids in the stomach are aggravated by the increased exposure to acids consumed in beverages and acidic foods, increasing bouts of heartburn and GERD and making breath more acidic also. Likewise, vomiting exposes teeth to increased acids, making enamel loss a prominent consequence of alcoholism and some eating disorders, as well as a potential problem associated morning sickness during pregnancy. To learn more about how an acidic diet affects oral health and what can be done about it, contact the caring family dental office of Dr. Dan Bush today!