Take steps to protect your teeth from the harmful effects of acidic drinks.
We all know that sugary drinks can damage the teeth, causing tooth erosion and cavities. But did you know that reaching for a glass of lemon water instead of your favourite soft drink might not, in fact, be the ideal solution?
Read on to learn more about the damage that acidic drinks can cause to the teeth, and what you can do to protect them…
What are some examples of acidic drinks?
The acidity level of any drink (or food) is measured on the pH scale. This scale determines how much acid from citrus or other preservatives a drink contains, with 7.0 considered ‘neutral’ and any rating lower than this considered ‘acidic’. The lower the rating, the more acidic the drink, and the more harmful it can be for your teeth.
To give a sense of this scale, we would find most non-citrus fruit juices at a pH level of about 5, with coffee and tea scoring about 4.5, and wine — a particularly acidic alcoholic drink — scoring about a 4.0 on the acidity scale. As acidity increases, we find citrus juices at about 3.5, with sports drinks and carbonated beverages scoring around 3.0. At the lowest end of the scale is lemon juice, which has a pH level of 2.0.
What damage do acidic drinks cause to teeth?
The strong outer covering that protects your teeth is known as enamel. Although tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body, over time, it can be worn down by the consumption of acidic drinks, leading to tooth erosion. This can be a big issue, as enamel — unlike skin, for example — does not repair itself, and a lack of proper enamel care makes patients more susceptible to dental treatments such as fillings, crowns, root canal or tooth extraction.
Signs of enamel or tooth erosion caused by acidic drinks include tooth pain and increased tooth sensitivity to both hot and cold drinks, but also sometimes to air rushing over the teeth. Enamel erosion can also cause tooth discolouration, and, in extreme cases, the development of abscesses and other infections.
How do I protect my teeth from acidic drinks?
Firstly, it is important to limit the number of acidic drinks you regularly consume. Remember that even if they are sugar-free, carbonated drinks, especially those with citrus flavouring, contain very high acidity levels, and even all-natural drinks like orange juice or fresh lemonade contain far more acid than a glass of water.
Remember that saliva helps keep acids under control, as it washes away acids and gives tooth enamel an opportunity to re-harden. Therefore, do not brush your teeth for at least half an hour after consuming acidic drinks.
Other top tips include using a straw to consume acidic drinks — as this limits the exposure of your teeth to the acid — and complementing your acid intake with dairy or calcium-rich foods, such as milk or cheese, as these serve to neutralise acids in the mouth.
Talk to your dentist if you are concerned about your intake of acidic drinks and their effect on your oral hygiene. They can explain the effects of nutritional choices on your teeth, and perform regular check-ups to ensure the health of your smile.
How can we help?
At City Smiles we recommend a proactive approach when it comes to the health of your smile. We aim to help you maintain your ultimate state of health by providing regular oral evaluations and dental cleans, not to mention expert advice when it comes to the effects of lifestyle choices on the health of your teeth. If you would like more information about our preventative approach, please read more here.
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