Why Acid Erosion of Teeth is Increasing

Acid erosion of the teeth is caused by consumption of acidic foods or drinks, or the effects of stomach acid in the mouth. It is not to be confused with the plaque acids that cause tooth decay. Whilst the demineralisation that occurs in tooth decay is caused by plaque acids, this occurs in a localised area on one tooth where plaque accumulates and is accompanied by harmful bacteria. Acid erosion affects many or all teeth simultaneously and does not cause cavities, but erodes and thins the enamel. In some areas the enamel may have eroded all the way through to the underlying dentine.

Acid erosion has become more common as our intake of acidic drinks has increased. Fizzy drinks (including diet drinks) are highly erosive. Other drinks that can cause dental erosion include fruit juice, smoothies, energy drinks, squash (including sugar free), flavoured waters and fruit teas. In addition many alcoholic drinks can contribute to dental erosion.

Left unchecked dental erosion can become more difficult to treat. It is not as simple as filling two or three cavities. To restore the worn enamel can mean treating all the teeth in the mouth. This can become an expensive course of treatment. It is far better to deal with erosion by means of early diagnosis and either dietary modification, or treatment of stomach disorders such as acid reflux.

Studies have shown that individuals differ in the ability of their saliva to neutralise acids. This means that some individuals are disproportionately more at risk of acid wear than others. I see this is my patients quite often. Some seem highly resistant to acid wear. Others, I have to give specific advice to and have to warn them that they are at risk and they will always have to be careful to avoid acidic foods and drinks.

Tips to Avoid Acid Erosion

  • Do not have more than 3 acidic drinks a day
  • Avoid excess consumption of fruit, especially citrus fruit, and eat more vegetables
  • Avoid excess consumption of pickles, vinegar and acidic salad dressing
  • Do not brush teeth immediately after having an acid drink
  • Drink acidic drinks fairly quickly. Sipping at them maintains the acidic conditions in your mouth for much longer.
  • See your GP if you have symptoms of heartburn, acid reflux, or are regularly vomiting due to bulimia or other illnesses.