Eat Right, Smile Bright - Acidic Food and Beverages: Impact on teeth

Eating highly acidic foods can damage the tooth’s outer protective cover called the tooth enamel and recede the gum line.

FP Studio August 14, 2020 20:07:52 IST
Eat Right, Smile Bright - Acidic Food and Beverages: Impact on teeth

As they say, “You are what you eat”. We all know eating greens, fresh vegetable and fruits is healthy for our overall wellbeing. Having a balanced diet is extremely important but have you ever experienced acidity, a sudden sharp discomfort/ discoloration of your tooth and wondered what causes it? Even though some foods might fall under the ‘healthy’ spectrum, they might be doing us more harm than good.

Understanding the pH value of foods and whether its acidic, neutral or alkaline gives us a deeper understanding of how it impacts the tooth and our overall health.

What is “acidity of food”? 

The pH value of food determines if it is acidic, basic, or neutral. The lower the pH level, the more acidic is the food and the higher the pH level, the more basic it is.

  • Neutral pH is 7
  • Acidic food items have a pH less than 7
  • Alkaline food items have a pH more than 7 upto 14.

Different foods tend to have different pH levels. For example- pure distilled water is neutral at 7. It’s neither acidic nor alkaline. Vinegar is extremely acidic at pH 2, while most greens are highly alkaline at pH 10. The ideal blood pH is between 7.35 and 7.45. The stomach acid is typically at a pH of 1.5 to 3.5 depending on the meal had or if it is eaten on an empty stomach, which helps the digestion process by breaking down the food properly. The foods with pH level lower than 4.6 are considered highly acidic.
Which foods are highly acidic?
Many of us don’t start our mornings without our daily dose of coffee. India’s warm climate, for a major part of the year creates a substantial demand for soft drinks and packaged juice. While we may think that having drinks and beverages is revitalizing our energy levels and making us fitter, we could not be more wrong. Drinks like coffee, alcohol, cold drinks, sodas, aerated drinks, sodas, sports drinks and juices are highly acidic in nature.

Similarly, even though Vitamin-C enriched fruits are good for health, they are high on citric acid which weakens the tooth enamel. Some highly acidic fruits include oranges, grapes, lemons, cranberries, pickles, tomato products like tomato Ketchup, salsa dips, pasta sauce etc. Substituting these foods with less acidic or neutralizing the acidity of these foods by combining its consumption with alkaline foods usually does the trick of avoiding any damage to your teeth enamel.

Which foods are neutral or low in acidity?

Eat Right Smile Bright  Acidic Food and Beverages Impact on teeth

Vegetables, especially fresh vegetables, are generally more on the neutral spectrum and are not considered acidic. Some of these include broccoli, cabbage, beetroot, mushroom, corn, potatoes etc.
There are also many fruits that are a rich source of vitamin C and yet not as acidic such as cantaloupe, honey dew melon, mango, kiwi, strawberries, banana and apple.

Beans/lentils, whole grains such as millet, quinoa, herbal teas, fats like olive oilavocados, nuts/ seeds, soybeans, tofu, milk are also all considered to be low-acidity foods with lots of health benefits.
Fish and lean meats also have low levels of acid. These foods are twice as much beneficial for you as they may actually help protect your tooth enamel too. They do this by offsetting acids in saliva, and as they are rich in calcium and phosphorus, they also replenish the minerals that are needed for stronger and healthier teeth and work as naturally occurring re-mineralizers.

The other alternate here is re-mineralizing toothpastes that are specifically designed to prevent and slow down enamel erosion due to acidic exposure and also repair the tooth to some extent by re-mineralizing the damaged or eroded enamel. The formulae of these toothpastes also give relief from nerve irritability and sensitivity to a certain extent.

Effects of eating highly acidic foods:

Acid deterioration may even lead to serious dental problems. Hence, it is important to notice these signs in their initial stages before severe and irreversible damage occurs, such as cracks, decay, nerve irritability and pain.

Eating highly acidic foods can damage the tooth’s outer protective cover called the tooth enamel and recede the gum line. This demineralization process exposes the inner layer of the tooth called the dentine, under which is the tooth pulp that contains nerves and blood vessels. Damaged and eroded enamel exposes dentine and nerve to foods and beverages which are very hot or cold, highly acidic, sugary and starchy which irritates the nerves inside the tooth that are highly sensitive to stimulation when exposed. This can lead to sharp and painful tooth sensitivity and also tooth decay and cavities. Highly acidic foods and drinks are the biggest culprits causing enamel erosion leading to tooth sensitivity.

Some of the effects of eating highly acidic foods are:

Eat Right Smile Bright  Acidic Food and Beverages Impact on teeth

  • Sensitivity -The sensation in the tooth while consuming hot or cold foods is called sensitivity. Acidic foods cause the erosion of enamel, which exposes the dentine of the tooth underneath and causes nerve irritability. If not looked into, the sensitivity becomes severe and may cause pangs of ache even when breathing in cold air.
  • Discoloration -The acidic foods wears off the transparent enamel, exposing the dentine which is yellowish in color, causing discoloration of tooth. Certain acidic foods like coffee can also stain the enamel and cause discoloration.
  • Rounded teeth -Edges are the first part of the tooth to come in contact with acidic foods. This may cause damage near the edges of the tooth, causing rounded edges or flat looking teeth.
  • Transparency -The higher the acidic content of the food, the more the enamel weakens, causing the tooth to appear translucent near the edges.
  • Cracks and chips - Small cracks may appear at the edges of your teeth and at times if the cracks are severe, the tooth might break. This is the sign to book an appointment with dentist and get necessary treatment before the nerve of the tooth dies and you might have to lose the tooth altogether.
  • Cupping – This occurs when the edges of the teeth become rough, sharp, irregular and small indents may appear on the chewing surface of the teeth.

Prevention

Prevention is better than cure. Once an adult loses their tooth, they have to bid it adieu forever. Unlike bones, our body cannot re-grow the tooth. Thus, by implementing preventive measures, we can ensure a longer and healthier life for our pearly whites.

Eat Right Smile Bright  Acidic Food and Beverages Impact on teeth

  1. Visit the dentist – Visiting a dentist twice a year for a routine checkup can avoid lots of dental problems before they become irreversible. Acid erosion on the enamel if treated in timely manner can avert many dental issues caused by enamel erosion. A dentist can also recognize symptoms and prevent further damage in case of severe discomfort.
  2. Hydrate – Drink plenty of water. Besides being good for your overall health, water prevents dry mouth and ensures enough saliva is being produced. Saliva consists of calcium, phosphate and fluoride that can cleanse the mouth of acids, preventing decay.
  3. Choose the correct toothpaste – Using remineralizing toothpastes can restore the already affected enamel to some extent, preventing further damage. However, remember that brushing right after a meal can damage teeth more than helping. So, avoid brushing for at least half an hour after eating.
  4. Eat right – Eating right is the first and biggest step towards healthier teeth. Small changes in eating habits can go a long way. While it is difficult to avoid acidic foods altogether, mixing them with alkaline foods can help. Finish your meal with milk, which is high in calcium and negates the acidity in mouth. Similarly, substitute fruits high in citric acid with other vitamin-enriched fruits.

Eat Right Smile Bright!

This is a partnered post.

 

References:

Ten JM et. al.; Eur J Oral Sci. 1996

Lussi A et. al.; Caries Res. 2004

Johansson AK et. al.; Eur J Oral Sci. 2002

Ehlen LA et. al.; Nutr Res. 2008

Kanzow, P. et. al.; Quint Int. 2016

Anita M. J Am Den Asso; June 2018

Updated Date:

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