Your teeth may be at risk. Did you know that consuming acidic foods and beverages can lead to acid erosion of teeth? Once softened by exposure to acid, tooth enamel weakens and can be worn away more easily, even by just brushing your teeth! If you tend to grind your teeth at night, you can quickly do serious damage.
Often the first sign of this problem is an increased sensitivity to cold air or liquids. Episodes of acid exposure will open the pores of the teeth and any areas exposed to dentin, such as root surfaces, can become very sensitive.
Acid-softened teeth are much more vulnerable to cavities. That can mean a lot of extensive dental treatment.
Serious acid damage does not occur with a single exposure, and your teeth have some ability to heal (remineralize). However, many repeated exposures can lead to severe and irreversible destruction of teeth.
This is a big problem. I am very alarmed at the amount of acid erosion and resulting tooth sensitivity I am seeing.
And most people have NO IDEA what is happening to them.
This is a real threat…
In recent years, I have seen more and more patients presenting with this problem. One patient in particular, she was a new patient in my practice. Her teeth were worn down to the gum line! Oh! I also noticed that many young adults who consume large amounts of cola and their teeth were being decimated by cavities (more on this later).
This acid erosion problem is not just age specific. I see A LOT at all ages, and it seems to be getting worse every year. Sure, people live longer and keep their natural teeth. However, that still doesn’t explain all the damage I’m seeing.
Watch out for acid bombs!
A key factor in this “epidemic” of acid damage is our modern diet. Many of the foods and drinks we consume contain very high levels of acid.
Acids commonly added to our foods include citric acid, acetic acid (vinegar), and phosphoric acid, all of which can significantly damage your enamel. So be sure to read the ingredient label.
Why are these acids added?
In most cases, to aid in conservation. It is widespread in 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 is cheap and very effective. Extended shelf life translates to higher profits. In the food industry, it is used in a wide range of items, from jams, juices, and salad dressings to ice cream, soft drinks, and candy. It is also used in toothpaste, mouthwash, and as a rust inhibitor in antifreeze.
Being weakly acidic, benzoic acid will not directly damage enamel. The preservative effect of this chemical is pH dependent: it works best in a low pH (acidic) environment. Other strong acids are being added to foods and beverages to set a pH low enough for this preservative to work. Many food substances, such as soft drinks, ice cream, and candy, are acidified (juice) in this way. That’s the big occult spike of acid that a lot of us are getting hit with!
On an additional note, benzoic acid can be combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
to form benzene, a known carcinogen. Vitamin C is often added to foods or drinks as an antioxidant. These two ingredients are still used together in a wide range of beverages around the world (thankfully banned in North America). Another good reason to read those ingredient labels.
Beware of the Double Dose!
A combination of high sugar and strong acid makes some of these foods and drinks particularly devastating to teeth. Bacteria in the mouth can aggressively metabolize any available sugar to produce lactic acid. That means your teeth will be exposed to more acid. This is why many children have recurrent cavities. They were constantly being hit with a double dose of acid from every cola they drank!
Diet drinks may be a bit less damaging to teeth, but some sugar substitutes (aspartame) can add an extra punch to the acid attack on our bodies.
More than just our teeth…
The damage from overexposure to acid only begins with our teeth. These synthetic “acid bombs” that we consume can alter our internal chemistry and dramatically affect our overall health.
Our bodies will try to compensate for this excess dietary acid, but at a price. Our alkaline reserves are gradually depleted, and while that happens, we begin to suffer the multiple consequences of chronic acidosis.
The following are some of the dangerous effects of chronic acidosis…
* Minerals (mainly calcium) are extracted from our organs and bones to neutralize excess acid. As calcium is removed from our bones, we can eventually suffer from osteoporosis.
* Our kidneys are overloaded by acid buildup and experience a higher incidence of kidney stones.
* Digestion suffers because excess systemic acid can inhibit the production of stomach acid as well as alkalizing salts from the gallbladder and pancreas. We are left with poorly digested acidic foods in our gut leading to cramping, bloating and risk of intestinal infections.
* Capillary blood flow slows down and the elimination of acid waste at the cellular level is blocked, increasing the effects of cellular aging and raising the risk of cellular transmutation (cancer).
* Acid buildup in the pancreas interferes with insulin production, leading to diabetes.
* Our energy levels drop and we suffer from chronic fatigue.
* Fat accumulates around our vital organs (to protect them) and we gain weight.
Chronic acidosis has been cited as the hidden but deadly disease that is the root cause of many of the serious illnesses we suffer from. Dr. Leigh Connealy states: “Acidosis literally destroys the body from the inside out, paving the way for disease to take over.
Be careful with these acidic foods!
Soft drinks (including iced lemon 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, blueberry, etc.
Chewable vitamin C (never suck on it)
Sweets (particularly sour sweets)
Vinegar-based products, such as salad dressings and ketchup.
white or red wine
The final result: the loss of enamel is progressive. If allowed to progress, your teeth can be severely compromised.
What you can do:
* Be alarmed. Take this seriously and don’t let your teeth become victims in food wars. Pay attention to ingredients and start limiting your exposure to acidic foods and beverages.
* Be realistic. Call it junk food for what it is, not as some “special treat” you’ve earned. Avoid associating “comfort” with poor food choices. Try to choose healthy snack alternatives, such as nuts and raw vegetables.
* Stop the outbursts! Find healthy alternatives, like mineral water. If you indulge, limit the frequency, duration, and concentration of acid exposure.
* Cut the candy. Master your sweet tooth before addiction consumes you. Sour sweets, dosed with citric, malic and/or tartaric acids, are very unpleasant.
* Limit your exposure time. Eating or drinking something slowly throughout the day will do more damage than a large exposure.
* Water your juices. Many juices have a concentrated sugar and acid content, to the point that they can’t even quench your thirst. Consider adding at least half the water (2/3 is my preference). Stay away from iced lemon tea.
* Good hygiene. Keep brushing and flossing. Be sure to use fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen your teeth. Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acidic foods or drinks, as this is when the enamel is 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 your hygiene visits. We’ll control acid damage. If the damage is already significant, we can help restore and protect the affected teeth with options like bonding, porcelain veneers, or crowns.