Tooth enamel destruction by popular drinks

Your tooth enamel is your shield, when it fails, the damages can be costly. As your dentist, you already know our advice about sugary food and drinks. We all love to enjoy treats and many people drink a soda daily or more. But understanding the potential consequences of such consumption is key, and having a plan to save your teeth will save you years of damage and discomfort.

Dentists have seen a dramatic increase in the frequency of patients with erosion of the enamel on their teeth. This consequence is even more alarming that the inevitable cavities caused by excessive sugar consumption. Consider the challenge of solving a dental cavity caused by excessive consumption of sodas. The dentist can clean and fill the cavity and the problem is solved.

However, soda presents a separate and more permanent problem. Beyond the sugar, sodas (including diet sodas) generally include both phosphoric and citric acid, which both alter the pH balance of your mouth. The longer-term consequence of these acids in sodas is an erosion of the natural enamel on your teeth. The enamel is supposed to protect your teeth from cavities and sensitivity, but erosion exposes your teeth to both.
If the enamel is compromised, people have increasing sensitivity to both hot and cold, which makes eating and drinking more difficult and painful. The tooth’s surface is more exposed to bacteria, plaque buildup and cavity creation. For patients with eroded enamel, the solutions are more difficult than a simple cavity filling.

The options for people impacted by enamel erosion may choose to have teeth crowned, but the cost involved would be high and the overall process extreme.
Dr. Kim McFarland, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry, suggests a five point plan to reduce the risk of long term erosion of your enamel should you choose to consume soda:

  • Limit consumption of soda to meal time
  • Don’t drink soda throughout the day
  • Brush your teeth afterwards — toothpaste re-mineralizes or strengthens areas where acid weakened the teeth
  • If tooth brushing is not possible, at least rinse out your mouth with water
  • Chew sugar free gum or better yet, gum containing Xylitol.