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Beware Effects Of Acid On Teeth

It isn't just sugar that can damage your teeth.

Significant acid content in food and drinks can also do a job on your pearly whites.

And there's a big list of those, including soda, both regular and diet, energy drinks, juice, wine, most fruits, tart candies, pickles, sauerkraut, even strawberry jam -- and more.

Dr. Nancy Rosen, a dentist practicing in Manhattan, explained to The Early Show's Russ Mitchell Wednesday that acid in foods or liquids can cause irreversible erosion of tooth enamel.

The results of the erosion can include sensitivity, pain, a higher likelihood of tooth decay, and darker teeth, because the layer below the white enamel is dark.

Generally, Rosen says, you can't repair affected teeth with simple fillings. To fix them, you need veneers and crowns.

But The Mayo Clinic suggests several ways to minimize such damage:

  • Limiting consumption of high-acid foods
  • Timing consumption: Eating acidic foods as part of a meal helps neutralize and eliminate acids. The worst time to consume acidic foods is just before bedtime, because saliva production decreases during sleep. Saliva helps neutralize and dilute acids.
  • Drinking right: Using a straw for soda or juice helps minimize contact with the teeth. Drinking quickly -- not sipping over long periods -- also helps reduce the effects of acid on tooth enamel.
  • Neutralizing: After consuming acidic food or drink, eating cheese or swishing with water or a fluoride rinse could help neutralize the acid.
  • Timing your brushing: Brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste 30 minutes before consuming acidic foods or drink is most beneficial. Brushing immediately afterward should be avoided.

    Rosen explains that, if you brush with the acid all over your teeth, it's like using acid as toothpaste. You should wait at least a half- hour before brushing, so your saliva can mix with the acidity and start to neutralize and dilute it.

  • Chewing sugar-free gum can help stimulate saliva flow.

    Rosen told Mitchell she has patients who put orange and lemon slices in their mouths and just suck on them. If you do that, you're just "bathing your teeth in acid." That's NOT a good idea! People who put sourball candies inside their cheeks do the same thing (and if the sourballs also have sugar, they're hurting their teeth both with acid and with sugar).

    Rosen added that people with acid reflux or who vomit because of bulimia are also at high-risk of enamel erosion, because they can introduce acid into their mouths from their digestive systems. And while acid from eating and drinking usually harms front teeth, the acid from the digestive tract frequently has its most severe impact on teeth in the back of the mouth.

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