Dental erosion: prevention, causes and treatment

Updated: November 8, 2022
Sodas can weaken teeth.

We often talk about sugar being the absolute enemy of teeth, but unfortunately it is not the only one. alerts you to the deleterious effects of acidic foods and beverages that weaken your teeth and make them more vulnerable to bacterial attacks and, consequently, the development of cavities.

How is acidity measured?

pH measures acidity on a scale from pH1, which is extremely acidic, to pH14, which is extremely alkaline. The neutral pH is 7.

Toothenamel dissolves at an acidity below pH5.5. The dentin that makes up the interior of the crown, as well as the root, dissolves at pH6.

As a result, if you drink or eat an acidic food, the surface of the tooth may be partially dissolved, because the tooth is bathed in a solution that is much more acidic than it can handle.

The pH in the human body

Different parts of the human body have different pH levels. In the digestive system, pH values range from extremely acidic to slightly alkaline.

The differences in pH in the various organs and body fluids allow them to perform their particular function:

  • Saliva which facilitates the passage of food through the digestive system and breaks down starch: pH 6.5-7.5
  • The upper stomach where the predigestion process begins: pH 4.0-6.5
  • The stomach which releases hydrochloric acid to break down food and kill bacteria: pH 1.5-3.5
  • The small intestine that completes digestion and absorbs nutrients into the bloodstream: 6.0-7.4
  • The large intestine which absorbs water, and eliminates undigested food and fiber: pH 5.0-8.0
  • Human blood is slightly alkaline and has a pH ranging from 7.35 to 7.45. A pH level in the blood that exceeds these limits in either direction significantly impairs metabolic processes within the body.

How does acidity affect teeth?

When the acids in the food you eat and drink weaken and wear away the tooth enamel, it leads to demineralization of the tooth. Its dentin is exposed and becomes sensitive. Eventually, you risk the formation of dental cavities.

Beware of your diet

food erosion dental
Diet has an influence on oral health.

Fruit, yogurt, citric drinks, soft drinks, etc. may seem like harmless foods, but overconsumption can lead to devastating and permanent damage to the teeth. This is called dental erosion, which is the breakdown of tooth structure caused by the effect of acid and which leads to decay.

Foods that contain acids erode the surface of the teeth and damage the enamel. Over time, acids dissolve the mineral structure of teeth, causing them to become thinner. With repeated exposure to acid, tooth enamel loses its shape and color, and as the damage progresses, the underlying dentin – the tissue that makes up the core of each tooth – is exposed, and the teeth turn yellow.

For example, sipping acidic beverages, holding them in the mouth before swallowing, increases the risk of eroding tooth enamel.

What are acidic foods and drinks?

Foods that are considered acidic have a pH below 7 and begin to be harmful to teeth below 6.

Here is a list of foods that it is advisable to limit, or neutralize by eating them together with more alkaline foods. Of course, it is only their overconsumption that is harmful, there is no question of removing them from your diet.

  • Cereals
  • Sugar
  • Dairy products
  • Fish
  • Ready-made meals from large-scale distribution
  • Sodas and other sweetened drinks
  • High protein foods
  • Fried chicken
  • Potato chips
  • French fries
  • Red meat
  • Pancakes
  • French toast
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Most protein bars
  • Roasted nuts
  • Heated oils
  • White bread
  • Pizza
  • Corn Chips
  • Margarine
  • Bottled fruit juice
  • Coffee
  • Most sports drinks
  • Beer

Fruits and fruit juices with a high acid content

Here is a list of fruits and their pH. They are listed from most acidic to least acidic.

  • Lemon juice: pH 2.00-2.60
  • Plums: pH 2.80-3.40
  • Grape: pH 2.90-3.82
  • Grenades: pH 2.93-3.20
  • Grapefruit: pH 3.00-3.75
  • Pineapple: pH 3.20-4.00
  • Apples: pH 3.30-4.00
  • Peaches: pH 3.30-4.05
  • Oranges: pH 3.69-4.34
  • Tomatoes: pH 4.30-4.90

In general, citrus fruits have a low pH, which means they are acidic. In addition to dental problems, citrus and other acidic foods can contribute to symptoms in people with gastrointestinal problems, such as ulcers or reflux.

It is important to remember that fruit juices are also acidic. For this reason, you may want to use a (non-disposable) straw when drinking them to prevent the juice from coming into direct contact with your teeth.

If you tolerate fruit well, eat it whole rather than in juice, as it is a healthy food to eat daily and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Despite their initial acidity, most fruits are alkalizing.

Be careful when brushing your teeth after eating acidic foods

brushing your teeth
It is best to avoid brushing your teeth right after eating acidic foods.

We always say that you should brush your teeth after every meal, but when you have consumed acidic foods and drinks, you should wait about 30 minutes. Indeed, the acid softens the enamel.

Brushing too early will accelerate tooth wear before the enamel has time to reattach.

Mix alkaline foods with acidic foods

It is not a question of putting yourself on a diet that forbids you to enjoy yourself. If you like certain foods that are particularly acidic, you can try eating foods that have a higher pH and are therefore low in acid at the same time.

These include nuts, cheese, mangoes, melons, bananas, apples, eggs, vegetables, brown rice, etc. Fish and lean meats are also low in acidity.

These foods help protect your tooth enamel in two ways: they neutralize the acids in saliva and provide the calcium and phosphorus needed to reintroduce minerals into the teeth.

Another tip is to chew sugar-free gum to increase the flow of saliva. This allows you to neutralize acids and help teeth stay strong.

Eating disorders and dental erosion problems

People with eating disorders tend to develop serious dental problems. Bulimia – mixed with anorexia – leads people to binge eat large amounts of food and then purge by making themselves vomit.

The effect of gastric juices on enamel

The constant cycles of bingeing and purging are hard on the heart, kidneys and other organs, but also cause irreversible damage to the teeth. Vomit is particularly toxic because it contains gastric juices. These acids break down food in the stomach so your body can digest it.

In the mouth, these acids become extremely corrosive, enough to wear away the enamel that covers and protects your teeth. Brushing your teeth too hard after vomiting can also weaken them.

The acids from frequent vomiting cause a crack in the enamel and then a cavity. As erosion worsens, the color and texture of teeth change. They chip easily and take on a yellowish color or a glassy appearance. Bulimia/anorexia can also change the shape and length of your teeth.

Salivary glands that swell

The acids in the vomit irritate the glands on the sides of each cheek. These glands produce saliva that also protects your teeth from cavities.

Although most of the damage to your teeth from bulimia/anorexia is irreversible, the swelling of the salivary glands can be reduced if these extreme behaviors stop.

pain and swollen salivary glands
Acid causes many health problems.

The appearance of mouth sores

Just as stomach acid wears away the enamel on your teeth, it can also irritate the skin on the roof of your mouth, your tongue, and the entire inside of your mouth.

Acid can also damage your throat and cause painful sores in your mouth and throat. These wounds can swell and even become infected.

Dry mouth

Lack of saliva can also lead to a constant feeling of dry mouth. This has an impact on the health of the teeth, as saliva eliminates the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

The pain

As the enamel on your teeth wears away, the sensitive part of your teeth is exposed and causes pain. This causes your teeth to overreact to hot and cold.

Medical Sources

Doctissimo: How to restore the pH in a too acidic body ;