In our dental practice, we occasionally see people with acid damage to their teeth. Acid is extremely harmful to teeth, dissolving the enamel, and it’s worth considering how to prevent it. Dr. Eric Ballou recently completed some training on acid damage and oral health at the Egyptian Theatre as part of the Idaho Southwest Dental Society SWIDS midwinter mtg.
Popular beverages are very high in acid, with energy drinks like Monster and RockStar being the worst. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, are right after energy drinks. Next on the list is lemonade and then lastly sodas like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Sugar soda can cause cavities easier but even diet sodas provide an acidic environment for bacteria to thrive.
People carry around their own acid – hydrochloric acid, which is very potent. Fortunately, your stomach is protected against stomach acid, but your mouth isn’t. We have seen bulimics destroy their teeth with repeated vomiting. One patient of ours would brush her teeth immediately after purging, which aggravated the problem by driving the acid into the teeth and gums. For such extreme cases, the natural tooth is beyond repair and we must resort to crowns and artificial teeth.
Another common problem is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where stomach contents (food or liquid) leak from the stomach into the esophagus and into the mouth. GERD has a variety of causes and symptoms but in terms of dental health, it frequently causes stomach acid to leak into the mouth at night, where it may spend hours damaging teeth.
Symptoms of acid damage include pitting in the enamel, excessive wear, or tooth erosion around fillings. Dentists and hygienists are trained to look for acid erosion during routine cleanings and examinations. If you tend to vomit frequently, for whatever reasons, you are at risk for many health problems, including tooth damage.
Even if you don’t have problems with stomach acid, you should limit your intake of strongly acidic foods like energy drinks. If you do drink something acidic, rinse your mouth out with water as soon as possible afterward. Avoid the acids like sucking on lemons and also realize that vitamin C tablets and lozenges are very erosive and damaging to enamel. As with sugary foods, if you’re going to eat them, it’s better to do it in one sitting and get it over with, rather than sip continuously throughout the day.