We eat all kinds of food in a day however, some of these are acidic foods that harm the teeth.
What exactly is an acid?
Foods and drinks have a pH value which defines if it is an acid, neutral or alkaline.
Acidic pH is between 0 to 6 while 7 is neutral and 8 to 14 indicates alkaline.
The body’s pH value is around 7.4 which allows it to function properly.
Foods that can be called acidic usually have a pH value less than 4.6.
They can cause acidity and acid reflux and are generally not good for the body but also harm the teeth.
This article discusses the effects that eating and drinking them will have on your teeth.
Highly Acidic Foods
From fruits to vegetables and drinks, there are tonnes of acidic beverages and foods.
Moreover, they are part of your regular diet and daily consumption.
There are certain foods that have a high potential renal acid load and others that cause acidity and acid reflux.
These include the likes of dairy products, seafood, sodas and carbonated drinks, starchy foods like brown rice, biscuits, high sodium and protein processed foods.
Also, some fruits and vegetables are acidic and have low pH levels but they are actually alkalizing in nature.
This means that they decrease the levels of acid in the body when eaten.
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemon, line, grapefruit, tomatoes, raisins, cranberries, plums and prunes are all acidic.
Other examples of such foods with high acid levels include:
- sour candies
- sour cream
- fermented cheese
- animal protein
Though, not all of these acids are bad for your health.
Some of these medium acidic and can neutralize the acids in the saliva.
Furthermore acidic drinks such as coffee, sodas, carbonated drinks such as sparkling water, energy drinks, sports drinks, citrus fruit juices and high phosphorus drinks such as beer and wine.
Conversely, there is food that is low in acids and rather alkaline or neutral that you can replace.
- herbal teas
- spices and herbs
- olive oil-healthy fats
- whole grains like millet
- soy foods
Once you know about these foods, you can take precautions in eating them and switch the acidic foods to a more alkaline or neutral diet.
However, the body needs both acidic and alkaline foods in moderation.
Therefore you should not quit taking them.
That said, acidic foods do pose problems for your teeth besides causing acid reflux and leading to other health problems.
Let’s learn about these below.
How Acidic Foods Harm Teeth?
All sorts of food and beverages that have a high acidic content can wear away the enamel over time.
They cause demineralization of the tooth enamel.
Furthermore, they result in low bone density and lead to muscle and bone deterioration.
When your enamel starts to weaken it can result in tooth erosion.
Hence, once your enamel and teeth are vulnerable, it opens the gateway for bacteria, plaque and infections.
Though once erosion starts it is permanent and you will need treatments for what harm erosion causes to your teeth.
The harms include:
As the enamel weakens, demineralization occurs.
This means that the enamel loses some essential minerals such as calcium that keep it stronger.
The enamel thins, gum line weakens and the dentin plus nerve center are exposed.
Hence, tooth sensitivity increases and the nerve irritation makes you feel a sharp pain whenever you eat or drink something hot and cold.
When the enamel weakens, the dentin shows.
The dentin is slightly more yellow than the enamel. Hence, your teeth look yellow.
However, the thinning of the enamel also causes plaque to accumulate on the surface of the teeth and result in staining.
Also, the acidic beverages coffee and sodas and energy drinks all happen to stain the enamel.
Hence, yellow teeth form as a result of consuming highly acidic beverages.
Moreover, as acidic foods cause acid reflux, the constant acid exposure weakens the enamel too making it prone to stains.
Enamel thinning is at the core of consuming acid-based foods and drinks.
Hence, once your enamel weakens it is easier for plaque to build up on it and bacteria to attack it.
The plaque can harden to become tartar and accumulate on the surface of the tooth.
If all this worsens then soon there will a hole in your teeth resulting in decay.
The cavity will be removed by a dental procedure known as fillings.
Though if you have preexisting tooth fillings then this erosion can change them.
Moreover, over time you become more susceptible to cavities if you do not control the type of food you consume.
If the erosion continues then the plaque and tartar will lead to gum disease.
Gingivitis can further worsen to form periodontal disease and result in tooth loss.
Hence, you need to treat gum disease before it becomes worse.
Similarly, you can also develop a tooth abscess if things worsen.
Treatment For Consequences
If you get cavities due to enamel erosion your dentist will clean the cavity and apply silver fillings or other types to treat it.
However, if it is severe then you may need a root canal treatment.
If the periodontitis has worsened then you may need to go through a tooth extraction and removal.
Moreover, if your dentin is exposed because of enamel thinning then you will need a teeth whitening session.
You can try using a teeth whitening kit at home or get professional teeth whitening done.
Home remedies will not work on the dentin as the enamel wear is not a cause of extrinsic discoloration.
Hence, you will have to get professional dental whitening to treat this intrinsic discoloration.
However, surface extrinsic stains can also develop because of acidic drinks and foods.
So, teeth whitening home remedies and at-home kits can be useful in this regard.
As far as sensitivity goes, you can use toothpaste specially made for sensitive teeth.
They target the gum line and enamel protecting you from feeling a sharp pain in your teeth while eating and drinking.
However, this pain may occur because of other actions like brushing and flossing.
Hence, use a soft brush and soft floss while maintaining good oral hygiene.
One way to control the damage from consuming acidic foods is neutralizing the pH in the mouth by eating alkaline foods alongside.
Or you can eat foods with low acidity.
These include fish, meat, bananas, mangoes, eggs, apples, whole grains, fried foods, nuts and brown rice.
These foods are acidic but much less hence they help to neutralize the acids in the saliva.
Also eating them delivers minerals such as phosphorus and calcium to the enamel.
Therefore, you should not completely cut down on acids as they form a healthy diet.
Moreover, fruits and vegetables such as cucumber, kale, plums, radish, blackberry, pineapples, grapes and peaches have alkalinizing factors.
Hence, they do not cause bone loss and do not increase muscle mass.
Though this may reduce their impact on teeth, long-term use can still lead to gastric issues such as heartburn, GERD and gastric ulcer.
We know that acidic foods are a part of your life and it is harder to quit them when they are in many fruits and vegetables.
However, if you follow a few prevention tips then you can save your teeth from eroding away due to your consumption.
See below for more.
Tips To Reduce The Effect of Acidic Foods
1.Do Not Brush Immediately After Eating
Whenever you eat or drink something acidic, you should wait for about 30 minutes to an hour before brushing.
While it is good to brush your teeth after eating, it is definitely not good to do it immediately.
The acids in the food are harmful enough and an additional abrasive toothpaste will erode the enamel.
Hence, you should first let the saliva do its job.
It will wash the acids away and also remineralize the enamel making it stronger.
To keep the saliva flowing in your mouth chew a piece of sugar-free gum.
2. Replace Acidic Drinks With Water
Drinking water is the best for your teeth and overall health.
Moreover, sodas and energy drinks are extremely bad for your teeth as they are highly acidic.
Hence take the calorie-free, sugar-free water instead.
Also, if you do not want to quit them then at least use a straw and do not let them stay in your mouth for long, take a sip and swallow immediately.
This reduces the amount of contact they make with your teeth.
3. Neutralize Acids After Eating Food
If you have just taken an acidic drink or food, neutralize it by eating a dairy product such as eating cheese or drinking milk.
Foods rich in calcium such as dairy products help to neutralize the acids in the mouth.
However, you can also simply rinse your mouth.
4. Use Toothpaste For Sensitive Teeth
If you continue to eat foods that are acidic then reduce the sensitivity your teeth feel.
Sensitive teeth can be highly uncomfortable and a good toothpaste can help lessen it.
5. Visit Your Dentist
Schedule a visit with your dentist bi-yearly.
Discuss with your dentist how you can reduce your acidic foods intake if the enamel is thinning.