Repeated exposure to acidic drinks and foods permanently destroys enamel
CHICAGO, Sept. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Fruit, yogurt, citric and soft drinks, may seem like harmless snacks and beverages, but improper consumption and overuse may lead to devastating and permanent damage to teeth. It's known as tooth erosion, and an online member poll conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) revealed that dentists feel tooth erosion is more common today compared to five years ago.
To help the public better understand tooth erosion as well as find the most effective treatment, the AGD recently launched a new print public service advertisement (PSA) campaign to educate the public about this issue. The AGD also created a special section on its Web site, www.agd.org, which provides free tools the public can use to learn more about this issue.
Tooth erosion is the breakdown of tooth structure caused by the effect of acid on dental enamel that leads to decay. Dental enamel is the thin, outer layer of hard tissue that helps maintain the tooth's structure and shape while protecting it from decay.
"Our profession and our members continue to see an increase of cases of this condition mainly due to changes in nutritional habits," says AGD President Vinny Mayher, DMD, MAGD. "Members who participated in our survey felt that consuming soft drinks, as well as other foods with a low pH value, contributes to tooth erosion."
For example, soft drinks, which contain acids, break down the tooth surfaces. These acids also damage tooth enamel over time by dissolving the mineral structure of teeth, thinning the teeth. Eventually, because of repeated exposure to acid, the tooth's enamel will lose its shape and color. As the damage progresses, the underlying dentin (which is the tissue that makes up the core of each tooth) becomes exposed, causing the teeth to look yellow.
"To prevent tooth erosion, patients who eat or drink an acidic food or beverage should wait at least 20 minutes before brushing the teeth so as not to destroy the weakened enamel," according to David Bartlett, BDS, PhD, who led a discussion during the AGD's Annual Meeting & Exhibits titled, "Acid Erosion -- Why is it Important to My Patients." Dr. Bartlett also suggests eating acidic foods within five minutes, instead of snacking on them throughout the day, and eating these foods just during meal times in order to minimize the amount of time the acid is on the teeth.
Frequently consuming and continual snacking on foods with a low pH (potential of hydrogen) value, such as fruit juices, pickles, fresh fruit, yogurt, honey and raisins can lead to irreversible dental erosion. Dr Bartlett says it is important to also beware of habits such as lemon-sucking and swishing soda in the mouth. "Doing this extends the amount of time that enamel and dentin are exposed to the acids and can increase the structural damage. But eating fruit as part of a balanced diet is good."
Dr. Bartlett also encourages patients to talk to their dentist about the use of dentin bonding to help prevent tooth erosion, a procedure that dentists learned about during his course at the AGD's annual meeting. Dentin bonding is when the dentist paints a very thin layer (about the thickness of plastic cling film) on the surfaces of teeth showing signs of erosion.
"Together, with dietary advice and daily desensitizing toothpaste, the aim is to prevent and treat early or moderate signs of erosion on the teeth," says Dr. Bartlett. Early signs of tooth erosion also consist of dentin hypersensitivity. In other words, if hot or cold foods and beverages cause pain or sensitivity this is an indication of tooth erosion. Dentists may also recommend daily use of over-the-counter fluoridated anti-hypersensitivity toothpaste with a neutral pH to he