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How Acidic Foods Affect Teeth and Which to Avoid

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When families gear up to indulge in their favorite foods during the holiday season, tradition often puts numerous acidic foods on the dinner table. If these culprits feature on your table, do you know what they can do to your teeth? Several food types fall into this category.

Foods to Avoid

Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes and similarly common fruit items are as acidic as they are healthy, which is why it's important to consume them with water to ensure they don't harm your enamel. However, these products aren't the only foods known for their low pH level. Others include:

  • Pickles
  • Cranberries
  • Tomato products (pasta sauce, ketchup, salsa, hot sauce)
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol (wine)

Why They Harm Teeth

When acid in the foods you eat and drink causes tooth enamel to wear away, teeth can become discoloured. And when tooth enamel weakens as a result, demineralisation has started to occur – leaving your teeth's dentin exposed and prone to sensitivity. Brushing after a meal is generally a good idea, but avoid doing so right after consuming acidic foods: acid softens your enamel, and brushing too soon will only speed up tooth wear before the enamel has had time to settle again. Unfortunately, demineralisation can lead to tooth cavities.

How to Lessen Dental Erosion

When eating acidic foods, try to pair them with foods that have a higher pH level and are therefore low in acidity. Such foods include nuts, cheese, oatmeal, mangos, melons, bananas, apples, eggs, vegetables, brown rice and whole grains. Fish and lean meats also have low levels of acid. These foods may actually help protect your tooth enamel, giving you a nice double benefit. They do this by neutralising acids in otherwise acidic saliva, and by providing the calcium and phosphorus needed to put minerals back in the teeth.

Prevention

See your dental professional twice a year for dental cleanings, which play an important role in maintaining your oral health by helping to identify dental erosion in its early stages. Where necessary, they can counsel you on making healthy dietary choices to stop dental erosion if your eating habits are contributing thereto. Outside of the dental chair, keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water so saliva can cleanse your mouth of these acids regularly. Use a fluoride toothpaste to help repair tooth enamel and reduce your risk of cavities. Keep in mind that, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), fluoride furthers the remineralisation of tooth enamel. Swishing with a fluoride mouthwash will also help lessen the severity of dental erosion. Be sure to floss once a day as part of your daily oral health routine, too.

Don't overlook the little things behind your daily routine. Chewing sugar-free gum can increase saliva flow, allowing it to neutralise acids and help teeth to stay strong. After all, a healthy mouth will certainly help you enjoy your favourite cuisine!