Acids in the mouth can dissolve away tooth surfaces. Given the chance teeth will repair themselves, using minerals from saliva. But if acid is in the mouth too often, teeth cannot repair themselves and the hard tooth surface (the enamel) becomes thinner – this is called erosion.
The teeth can then become extra sensitive to hot and cold food and drink. Eroded teeth can also be more likely to suffer decay.
The main cause of erosion is too frequent consumption of certain kinds of food and drink. All fizzy drinks (including ‘diet’ brands and fizzy mineral water, all ‘sport’ drinks, all squashes and all fruit juices are acidic to varying degrees. Pickles and citrus fruits are examples of acidic types of food.
Some medicines are acidic and, therefore, erosive.
And people with some illnesses (such as eating disorders) may suffer from erosion because of frequent vomiting, as stomach acids also erode teeth. For this reason, dentists may ask about eating disorders if they see teeth that are badly eroded.
How to prevent erosion:
Don’t have acidic food and drink too often during the day. Try to have them only at mealtimes.
Between meals, you should have ‘safe’ drinks which are not sugary or acidic. Milk and water are safe drinks. So are tea and coffee if you do not add sugar to them.
Avoid snacking between meals and if you do stick to ‘safe’ snacks which are not sugary or acidic. Fruits, vegetables and breads are ‘safe’ snacks. Some fruits especially citrus fruits, are acidic and are known to cause erosion if they are consumed in large quantities.
Because acids temporarily soften the tooth surface, don’t brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking something acidic.
You should brush your teeth twice a day and always use fluoride toothpaste.