Why is it a problem?
Dental erosion is irreversible, once dentine is exposed by the removal of the protective layer of enamel, the teeth can become sensitive and are more prone to decay.
We see a lot of erosion particularly in younger patients, mostly attributable to fizzy drinks. Remember, once the tooth is dissolved away, it cannot be brought back. Any fillings placed will last only a few years. What are the likely culprits in diet?
The most erosive food and drinks are:
- Carbonated (fizzy) drinks consumed over a long period of time, i.e sipped over a few hours rather than drunk all at once.
- Wine, beer, cider (especially white cider).
- Lemon in hot water.
- Lemon tea.
- Fruit teas.
- Sports drinks.
- Acidic fresh fruit.
Erosion is a particular problem with children due to the prevalence of fizzy drinks. You can help to prevent dental erosion by limiting the number of acidic drinks you / they consume. If you have a young child, try to only give him or her water or milk to drink and restrict fizzy drinks to treats or meal times. Drinking drinks colder or through a straw can help. Drink plenty of water frequently throughout the day, especially if exercising.
Do not brush immediately after eating or drinking acidic or sugary foods or drinks as tooth enamel will be softened and could be ‘brushed off’. (See below).
Stomach acid also causes erosion, if you have a health condition that makes you sick often or suffer from acid reflux / heartburn you may be damaging your teeth.
Should I brush my teeth immediately after I have eaten?
No, you should wait up to an hour after eating before you brush your teeth.
When you eat and drink the enamel on your teeth becomes weak. If you brush straight after eating, it can cause the enamel to wear away and expose the dentine underneath. This can cause pain and sensitivity and may lead to tooth decay.
You should wait around 30 minutes to an hour after eating before you brush your teeth. This will give your saliva enough time to neutralise the acid caused by eating and drinking. It's also best not to snack on sugary food and drinks between meals as these can increase your risk of tooth decay.
The best time to brush your teeth is before breakfast and last thing in the evening before you go to sleep. It's particularly important to clean your teeth at night, because when you're asleep the flow of saliva slows down, leaving your teeth more at risk from decay.