Your teeth may be at risk. Did you know that consuming acidic foods and drinks can lead to acid erosion of your teeth? Once softened by acid exposure, your tooth enamel becomes weakened and can be more easily worn away, even by just brushing your teeth! If you tend to grind your teeth at night, you can quickly do some serious damage.
Often the first sign of this problem is increased sensitivity to cold air or liquids. Bouts of acid exposure will open up the pores on your teeth, and any areas of dentin exposure, such as root surfaces, can become very sensitive.
Teeth softened by acid are much more vulnerable to decay. That can mean a lot of intensive dental treatment.
Serious damage from acid does not happen with a single exposure, and your teeth have some capacity to recover (re-mineralize). However, many repeated exposures can lead to severe, irreversible destruction of your teeth.
This is HUGE problem. I'm very alarmed by how much acid erosion and the resulting tooth sensitivity I'm seeing.
And most people have absolutely NO IDEA that it's happening to them.
This is a Real Threat …
In the past few years, I have seen more and more patients who are presenting with this problem. One patient in particular, she was a new patient to my practice. Her teeth were worn right down to their gum line! Ouch! I also noticed that many younger adults who consume large quantities of cola drinks and their teeth were being decimated by tooth decay (more on that issue later).
This problem of acid erosion is not just age specific. I see a LOT of it in all ages, and it seems to be getting worse every year. Sure, people are living longer and keeping their natural teeth. Yet, that still does not explain all the damage I'm seeing.
Beware the acid bombs!
A key factor in this "epidemic" of acid damage is our modern diet. Many of the foods and drinks that we consume contain highly elevated levels of acid.
Acids commonly added to our food include citric acid, acetic acid (vinegar), and phosphoric acid – all of which can significantly harm your enamel. So make sure you read the ingredients label.
Why are these difficulties being added?
In most cases, to assist in preservation. It's widespread within the food industry.
Benzoic acid and its salt forms (sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, etc.) are among the most widely used food preservatives in the world. It's cheap and very effective. Prolonged shelf life translates into higher profits. In the food industry, it is used in wide range of items from jams, juices and salad dressings to ice cream, soft drinks and candies. It's also used in toothpaste, mouthwash, and as a rust inhibitor in anti-freeze.
Being weakly acidic, benzoic acid will not harm your enamel directly. This chemical's conservative effect is pH dependent – it works best in a low pH (acidic) environment. Other strong acids are being added to food and beverage products to establish a low enough pH for this conservative to work. Many food substances, such as soft drinks, ice cream, and candies, are being acidified (juiced up) this way. That's the big, hidden acid spike many of us are being hit with!
On a further note, benzoic acid can combine with ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
to form benzene – a known carcinogen. Vitamin C is often added to food or beverage products as an anti-oxidant. These two ingredients are still being used together in a wide range of beverages through the World (fortunately banned in North America). Another good reason to read those ingrediological labels.
Watch out for the Double Dose!
A high sugar and strong acid combo make some of these food and beverages particularly devastating for your teeth. Bacteria in your mouth can aggressively metabolize any available sugar to produce lactic acid. That means your teeth will be exposed to even more acid. That's why a lot of children have re occurring decay. They regularly got hit with a double dose of acid from all the cola drinks they drink!
Diet drinks may be marginally easier on your teeth, but some sugar substitutes (aspartame) can add an extra punch to the acid attack on our bodies.
More than Just Our Teeth …
The harm from overexposure to acid only begins with our teeth. These synthetic "acid bombs" we're consuming can alter our internal chemistry and dramatically affect our overall health.
Our bodies will attempt to compensate for this excess dietary acid, but at a price. Our alkaline reserves are gradually being depleted, and as that happens, we start suffering from the many consequences of chronic acidosis.
The following are some of the dangerous effects of chronic acidosis …
* Minerals (mainly calcium) are leeched from our organs and bones to neutralize the excess acid. As calcium is leeched from our bones, we can always suffer from osteoporosis.
* Our kidneys are overburdened by the acid buildup and experience higher incidence of kidney stones.
* Digestion sufferers because excess systemic acid can inhibit the production of stomach acid as well as the alkalizing salts from the gall bladder and pancreas. We're left with poorly digested, acidic food in our intestine that brings on cramping, bloating and risk of intestinal infections.
* Capillary blood flow slows down and the removal of acid waste on a cellular level is blocked, increasing the effects of cellular aging and raising the risk of cellular transmutation (cancer).
* Acid accumulation in the pancreas interfereses with insulin production, leading to diabetes.
* Our energy levels drop off and we suffer from chronic fatigue.
* Fat accumulates around our vital organs (to protect them) and we put on extra weight.
Chronic acidosis has been cited as the hidden but deadly disease that's the primary cause of many of the serious ailments we suffer from. Dr. Leigh Connealy states "Acidosis literally destroys the body from the inside out, paving the way for disease to take over.
Watch Out for These Acidic Foods!
Soft drinks (including lemon iced-tea)
Sports drinks – Gatorade, Powerade, etc.
Energy Drinks – Red Bull, Full Throttle, etc.
Citrus Fruits – lemons, limes, grapefruit, etc.
Fruit juices – lemonade, grapefruit, orange, apple, cranberry, etc.
Chewable Vitamin C (never suck on them)
Candies (particularly sour candies)
Vinegar-based products such as salad dressing and ketchup
White or red wine
The Bottom Line: Loss of enamel is progressive. If left to advance, your teeth may become severely compromised.
What You Can Do:
* Be alarmed. Take this seriously and do not let your teeth become casualties in the food wars. Pay attention to ingredients and start limiting your exposure to acidic food and beverages.
* Get real. Call junk food it what is, not a "special treat" that you've earned. Avoid associating "comfort" with bad food choices. Try choosing healthy snack alternatives such as nuts and raw veggies
* Stop the pop! Find healthy alternatives, such as mineral water. If you do indulge, limit the frequency, time length, and concentration of acid exposure.
* Cut out the candy. Tame your sweet tooth before addiction consumes you. Sour candies, being dosed up with citric, malic, and / or tartaric acids, are extra nasty.
* Limit your exposure time. Eating or drinking something slowly throughout the day will do more harm than one big exposure.
* Water your juices down. Many juices have concentrated sugar and acid content, to the point that they can not even quench your thirst. Consider adding at least half water (2/3 is my preference). Stay away from lemon iced-tea.
* Good Hygiene. Maintain brushing & flossing habits. Be sure to use fluoridated toothpaste to help strengthen your teeth. Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acidic foods or drinks, as this is when enamel is at its softest and most likely to be damaged. Simply rinse with water instead.
* We can help. Stay healthy and keep your teeth for life by keeping up your hygiene visits. We'll keep tabs on acid damage. If the damage is already significant, we can help restore & protect the affected teeth with options such as bonding, porcelain veneers, or crowns.