As a preventative dentist in Longview, I am often asked questions about what is good, or bad, to drink and how these choices contribute to dental erosion. Here are some of the questions I hear and my answers to them.
What is dental erosion?
When the surface of your tooth (enamel) dissolves through chemical means, you have suffered dental erosion. At first, only a portion of your surface enamel will dissolve but in time more of the dento-enamel junction will be exposed. The result is severe tooth sensitivity and teeth that are more susceptible to damage.
Is dental erosion a problem?
Yes, dental erosion contributes to tooth decay, sensitivity, and damaged teeth and darkened teeth. Various studies and reports estimate that drinking acidic beverages can contribute significantly to 80 percent of the dental erosion cases in children, teens, and adults. This is particularly dangerous in children because they have thinner enamel than adults. This means that there is less enamel to erode and tooth sensitivity will develop much faster than it does with adults. As a preventative dentist in Longview, I recommend that both children and adults stay away from carbonated beverages, juice, sports drinks, energy drinks, and anything with a low pH level as a preventative measure.
What contributes to enamel erosion?
Low pH levels below 6.5 can contribute to the erosion of your dentin or root structure, while a pH level below 5.5 can dissolve the enamel. Citrate Chelation of calcium ions may also contribute to erosion.
Why are commercially available drinks are so erosive?
It comes down to a combination of flavor and shelf-life. Americans prefer sweet and sour tastes and to create that flavor profile, acids are added to a variety of beverages. This is what makes drinks taste both tart and tangy, while still being sweet.
Specifically, citric acid is added as a preservative that also creates a tangy flavor. Phosphoric acid creates tartness while also improving the shelf-life of beverages. These are both common in sodas while malic acid is more common in fruit drinks unless one adds it to soda as an artificial sweetener. Malic acid occurs naturally and can be found in fruits like pears. When added to beverages, it enhances their flavor.
Are some drinks worse than others?
Yes, the lower the pH level the worse a beverage is for your teeth. Since acidity below 6.5 is bad for your teeth, nearly all commercially available drinks put your teeth at some risk (other than TAP water and milk). Some bottled waters have an unhealthy low pH value. However, this concern is elevated with any drinks that are lower than 5.5. Once the pH level reaches a 4, there is a one-hundred-fold increase in enamel demineralization from 2 to 4 pH. This makes it wise to have a general understanding of what the pH levels are in certain drinks so that when you go to a restaurant or purchase a drink on the go, you can buy one with the highest pH level possible.
If you have further questions, feel free to call our office and speak with a preventative dentist in Longview.
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