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Modern lifestyles present a number of challenges for your body including your teeth. Dental erosion is the irreversible loss of tooth tissue due to exposure to acid. Sources of acid exposure can be intrinsic (from within your body) or extrinsic (from outside your body).
People at risk from intrinsic acid exposure include those who experience gastric reflux or recurrent vomiting.
Extrinsic acid can be found in some of our most popular everyday drinks and foods. These include:
- Drinks such as fruit juice, wine, carbonated drinks, sports drinks
- Foods such as citrus fruit
- Medications eg. Vitamin C, aspirin and some iron preparations
Brushing straight after a meal
Brushing your teeth straight after a meal may not be the good habit you think it is. To help control dental erosion, it is recommended you avoid brushing for at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking acidic food or drinks.
Dry mouth and erosion
Saliva plays an important role in buffering acids within the mouth and reducing their effect on the teeth. It is the mouth´s own cleaning system. Saliva also dilutes and washes away food particles and acids. If you often have a dry mouth, erosion may damage your teeth more quickly.
Are you at risk?
People with an increased risk of dental erosion include those who:
- Have a high intake of acidic foods or drinks
- Have low salivary flow or a dry mouth
- Have insufficient water intake
- Have a high intake of caffeine-containing drinks
- Are dehydrated due to their active lifestyles
Controlling dental erosion
Managing dental erosion requires managing the lifestyle factors which put you at risk while strengthening your teeth against acid attack. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Drink plenty of water
- Drink milk or non-acidic drinks in place of carbonated drinks, fruit drinks, cordials
- Drink quickly or with a straw (avoid sipping/swishing)
- Restrict acidic foods and drinks to main meals
- Avoid tooth-brushing for 30 minutes after eating or drinking acidic foods or drinks
- Brush twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste and a soft toothbrush
- Ask your dentist if you would benefit from additional fluoride treatment (e.g. fluoride rinse)
- Visit your dentist for regular check ups so that signs of erosion can be detected early
A healthy lifestyle doesn´t always mean healthy teeth
Eating too much sugar can cause tooth decay. But even if you have healthy eating habits, exercise regularly and brush frequently, you can still be at risk of dental erosion.
Prolonged exposure of the teeth to an acidic environment can dissolve or eat away the enamel surface of the teeth. This can occur when acidic drinks are sipped over a prolonged period of time, rather than consumed with a meal. When strong acid is frequently present, the mouth´s natural defence system can no longer deal with the problem, and faster tooth wear occurs.
Sometimes erosion results in the soft inner part of the tooth (dentine) being exposed which can cause sensitivity.