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September 27, 2017  | by Gina

Erosion: What You Can Do

Erosion occurs when acids wear away at the tooth enamel over time. A tooth with erosion looks dimpled, rough and dull. This can increase sensitivity, and make the tooth more susceptible to breakage or decay. Though prevention is the most successful strategy, monitoring and resurfacing treatment are also available options.

Erosion can be caused by what we are eating or drinking. Many of our manufactured foods and beverages contain more potent acids than natural or “whole” foods contain. The more modern habit of sipping on the go, or snacking throughout the day can make the applications of harmful acids more frequent. A neutral pH is 7, and most foods contain a lower, or acidic, measurement. As a reference, battery acid is 1.0. Processed foods and drinks such as sodas, juices, beer and wine, vinegar, pickles, coffee and sports drinks can contain acids. Apple cider vinegar, which actually turns basic or alkaline when processed by the body, goes across the teeth at a potent 2.4-3.4 pH. Sports drinks and sodas can be just as acidic, and more harmful because they are consumed in greater quantities over a longer period of time than a morning “shot” of vinegar. Wine and lemon juice top the list at a very acidic 2-2.3 pH.

Additionally, reflux and heartburn can expose tooth enamel to powerful stomach acids when traveling up through the esophagus. Soda or any carbonated beverages can distend the stomach, which can worsen GERD and reflux. Major risk factors are a fatty diet, and larger meal portions. Saturated fat and fried foods kick stomach acids into overdrive. It is also important to note that GERD can be asymptomatic, and you may not be aware that you have it. If you experience heartburn, talk to your doctor or dentist to discuss treatment options.

Prevention is more effective than treatment when it comes to erosion: minimize dietary acids, and secondarily, minimize the frequency of application (sipping or snacking). Try NOT to brush immediately after acid exposure. Your enamel is fragile after exposure to acids, and a water rinse or swish is best, followed by brushing about 2 hours later. Stick to moderately portioned, lower-fat meals and avoid soda to minimize stomach acids. Dental plaque also secretes acid, and can operate in both erosion and tooth decay (though the two are different, they can share this causative factor.)

Here at Monroe Street Family Dental, we can provide some tools to help. Ask us at your next visit about a high-resolution, three-dimensional scan to help record the appearance of your teeth and track acid erosion. Fluoride treatments can remineralize the teeth and provide some protection against acids. We can evaluate you for xerostomia (dry mouth), which can also worsen the effects of acids. Dietary coaching is available, as well as a self-questionnaire to help evaluate whether you may have GERD or another medical condition. With erosion, prevention is best and restoration is possible - and your professional dental staff is here to help.