Do you drink vitamin water? Well, your “healthy choice” may unwittingly be contributing to the demise of your teeth!
Most people know that frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks is not exactly healthy for one’s teeth (let alone one’s waistline). What’s lesser known are the harmful effects that soda, carbonated water, vitamin water, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and even fruit juices can have on your pearly whites.
The problem with these ever-so-popular beverages is not the added sweeteners – it’s their acidity. Some of these delicious thirst quenchers can be as acidic as stomach acid, and their popularity has led to a trend seen more and more often in dental offices throughout the country – the erosion of otherwise healthy teeth.
Dental erosion is the permanent loss of tooth structure due to chemical dissolution by acids. In other words, the very drinks and foods that we are consuming are dissolving our teeth! Ironically, many of the so-called health drinks are the worst offenders.
Dental erosion is not a rare condition. In fact, it is quite common. Younger people “are showing up at their dentists’ offices with problems more often associated with middle age: sensitive, yellowing, pitted teeth that are losing their protective enamel.” (USA Today 4/7/2008.) This phenomenon is a direct result of the increased consumption of acidic beverages.
For those of you who hated high school chemistry, a brief review: pH is a measure of how acidic or basic (alkaline) a solution is, and it has a scale from 1-14. Battery acid has a ph of 1. Water is considered neutral and has a pH of 7. Lye is very alkaline, with a pH of 14. Tooth enamel begins to dissolve at a pH of 5.3. A brief listing of the pH value of some popular drinks may surprise you:
How Your Favorite Beverages Stack Up
|SoBe Tropical||2.5||Coke Classic||2.53|
|Grapefruit Juice||2.8||Pepsi One||3.05|
|V8 Splash Berry Blend||3.1||Snapple Tea||3.2|
|Diet Coke||3.39||Orange Juice||3.3-4.15|
|Vitamin Water||3-4||Apple Juice||3.4|
|Juicy Juice||3.5||Red Bull||3.5|
The lower the number, the higher the acid.
Tooth enamel begins to dissolve at a pH of 5.3)
So, the acids that we consume temporarily soften the tooth’s surface. Under normal circumstances, your saliva will neutralize the acids. However, if you consume acidic beverages frequently, your teeth don’t have a chance to recover. As a matter of fact, the worst thing you can do after you drink a Coke is to brush your teeth because, in its weakened state, your tooth enamel is much more susceptible to toothbrush abrasion!
So now that you know the potential peril of plentiful pints of PowerAde before, during and after your spin class, what should you do to help prevent dental erosion besides drink more water? Here are some helpful hints that I have compiled from various sources, including the A.D.A. and the Academy of General Dentistry:
- Swallow quickly when you drink highly acidic beverages
- Do not swish the beverage around in your mouth
- Use a straw to push the beverage to the back of your mouth
- Rinse or swish with water to reduce the acidity of your mouth
- Chew sugarless gum to increase saliva output
- Do not brush your teeth for at least 1 hour after consuming high-acid drinks
- Use a soft toothbrush
- Use a low-abrasive toothpaste that contains fluoride (such as Crest Pro-Health)
Some of the signs of dental erosion include sensitivity, discoloration, rounding of the tooth shape, increased transparency, cracks at the edges and within the tooth structure, cupping off the biting surface, and loss of tooth contour at the gum-line.
On a personal note: When my son was in kindergarten some 17 years ago, I visited his class and spoke about dentistry. The last thing I did was to place a real tooth in a bottle of 7-Up and told the class to check the tooth over the school year.
To this day, some of those “not so kids anymore” still share the memory of how that tooth just got eaten away. (F.Y.I. The pH of Diet 7UP is 3.67, and the tooth dissolved because of the phosphoric, citric and carbonic acids commonly found in most sodas.