How Acidic Drinks Affect Teeth

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Your teeth are strong, but they're not indestructible. Most popular drinks are very high in acid, and this acidity can damage your enamel. Once it is damaged, you'll need your dentist's help to repair it so that it doesn't wear away more.

Dangers of Acidic Drinks

Drinks with a high pH level can cause a variety of oral health problems, but it begins when they eat away at the hard, outer layer of your teeth. Enamel erosion is a problem because enamel that becomes destroyed can't grow back. Unlike other materials in your body, your enamel doesn't have any living cells, so there's no way for it to heal itself.

When your tooth enamel erodes, the sensitive, yellow-colored dentin underneath is exposed. This is why your teeth will start to look discolored when you don't take care of them. But the exposed dentin doesn't just have cosmetic downsides; it can also lead to painful dental conditions like tooth sensitivity. People with sensitive teeth experience pain when they drink or bite into hot, cold, sweet, acidic or spicy foods and drinks, and it can have adverse effects on their diet in the long run.

Common Acidic Drinks

Studies have indicated diet soda isn't any more tooth-friendly than regular soda. Although it is sugar-free, it's still overwhelming to your enamel if you drink it regularly. Even surprisingly small quantities of soda can damage your teeth; as little as one glass per day has been linked to damage, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Because citrus fruit juices contain healthy vitamins and minerals, you may assume they're healthy for your teeth as well. Sadly, this isn't the case. Orange juice and similar citrus-sourced liquids are packed with Vitamin C, but they're packed with tooth-damaging acids as a result. In fact, both lemon and lime juice are comparable to the acidity of battery acid.

Wine is another highly acidic beverage. And although red wine is slightly less acidic than white wine, both can damage your teeth and should be consumed in moderation.

Protecting Your Teeth

To keep your tooth enamel safe, reduce your intake of drinks that have a pH level of around 3 (just 4 points away from that of saliva, according to Dear Doctor), which is where you typically find soda. When you do want to drink soda or fruit juice, choose a low-acid, tooth-friendly alternative instead. Here are some:

  • Tap water
  • Black tea
  • Black coffee
  • Milk

When drinking an acidic beverage, keep in mind you should have it with food rather than sipping it between mealtimes. And after your meal, rinse with water to further dilute the acid that lingers in your mouth. Once you're done eating, wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth. Acidic drinks weaken your tooth enamel, so brushing too soon can actually cause damage while it's still newly sensitive. Your dentist may recommend using an enamel-strengthening toothpaste, such as Colgate® Enamel Health Sensitivity Relief, to help your teeth withstand this damage.

Repairing Damage

If your teeth are damaged as a result of drinking acidic beverages, rest assured your dentist can help. Restorative applications like veneers, crowns or bonding can cover up your damaged enamel and effectively restore your damaged teeth to their normal look and function. The dentist can determine which restorations are best for your condition.

Acidic drinks are very damaging to tooth enamel over time, no matter how long you've held the habit, so be sure to drink them in moderation. If you're concerned your enamel is damaged due to soda, juice, wine or another acidic drink, visit your dentist right away.