Studies on Beverages and Dentin, Explained by Your Preventative Dentist

Posted on: May 16, 2016

Preventative DentistAs a preventative dentist, I am concerned with finding ways to help my patients keep their teeth and gums in optimal health. This begins with habits that are formed at home on a daily basis. While as a dentist, I can clean teeth examine and treat them, it is critical that my patients also assist by forming positive habits at home. The challenges that many people are unaware of is the risk that they put their teeth in on a daily basis simply by consuming commercial beverages.
The pH Levels of Commercial Beverages in the United States, Puts Your Teeth at Risk

In a recent study published by the American Dental Association, 379 beverages were tested for their pH levels and to determine how much chemical dissolution of the tooth structure occurred when those drinks were consumed. It was determined that out of 379 beverages, 354 had a pH level less than 4%. Out of all of the beverages tested, only 7% were considered to be minimally erosive. As a consumer and as a preventative dentist this is incredibly alarming because it means that every time you or your children purchase a beverage from the store, there is a 93% chance that the beverage you are consuming is going to be terribly bad for your teeth.  Beverages tested included cola products, soda, juice, energy drinks, sports drinks and commercially available water. Given that only 7% of the products tested are considered to be somewhat safe for your teeth, it is safe to assume that if you purchase anything other than water or milk, there is a good chance it will be erosive.

Be aware: If you have to choose between giving your child a sports drink or an energy drink, select the sports drink. While still erosive, it is far less so than energy drinks like Red Bull. In fact, enamel weight loss after drinking an energy drink is twice the weight loss experienced after drinking a sports drink. Still – water is ultimately the best option.

A Preventative Dentist Describes the Role of Dentin
To understand why erosion is so detrimental for your teeth, you must understand the structure of your tooth. The inside of your tooth is made of dental pulp which is incredibly sensitive. In fact, when you get a tooth infection that requires a root canal, the dental pulp is the area that is infected. On top of the dental pulp is dentin.  Dentin makes up the majority of your tooth structure and on top of that, is your enamel. When the acid inside of these beverages begins to erode your enamel, more of the dentin is exposed and you may experience tooth sensitivity. According to another study published by the AGD this can happen incredibly quickly – within the first three minutes of exposure, the enamel microhardness can significantly be reduced.  Erosion can lead to future damage, decay, and even tooth loss.

What Drinks are Safe?
To start with, remember sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth and those bacteria produce plaque and acid. That acid is called lactic acid and it has a pH of 4. So it is important to note that any soft drink with a pH level lower than 6.5 will dissolve your dentin. And if it is below 5.5 it will dissolve your enamel. It is going to be highly corrosive and incredibly dangerous for your teeth. Additionally, you should be aware that anything with added phosphoric acid or citric acid could also be incredibly erosive and therefore dangerous. Drinks that have the addition of calcium and phosphate are going to have far less corrosive potential. The AGD study found that simply dissolving 8 grams of calcium triphosphate in orange juice was able to reduce the erosive potential of that particular beverage by six times. Reading labels can, therefore, be in your best interest. Otherwise, sticking with water or milk is certainly a wise decision. Your mouth produces saliva; its pH is 7.4-7.8. Teeth only remineralize (reharden) at 7.4 and above.

To learn more about issues like erosion or physiochemical properties and enamel dissolution, call and schedule an appointment with our dental office.

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