Naturally Protect Your Pearly Whites
By Alex Hook
Our society has long understood the relationship between sugar and dental cavities, but a less widely discussed enamel villain lurks in the beverage aisle at your health food store. Enamel, the substance making up the exterior portion of a tooth, is made up of 96 percent mineral content. While this mineralized substance—which is stronger than bone—can withstand massive biting forces, it is vulnerable to the slow daily wear brought on by acid erosion. The consumption of highly acidic foods and beverages changes the oral pH and damages the enamel that protects the interior of the tooth where the nerve is housed. Over time, enamel erosion can lead to increased sensitivity, discoloration, pitting, susceptibility to cavities, and weakened tooth structure.
That’s not to say acidic food and drinks should be avoided entirely as many a kombucha bottle touts numerous systemic benefits to these highly acidic elixirs. Thankfully, there are still ways to enjoy these bubbly, probiotic beverages and other healthy, acidic favorites. First, consider using a straw to avoid bathing your teeth in the acid. Second, limit the time spent drinking it. Since each sip alters the pH in your mouth, enjoy it with a meal versus sipping it throughout the day and creating a high frequency of acidic spikes. Third, eat or drink something rich in calcium to aid in neutralizing the acids—it’s an ideal excuse to eat cheese. Other beneficial foods to pair with an acidic food or drink include most whole grains, nuts, bananas, and melons. Lastly, rinse your mouth with water afterward and let your saliva get to work restoring your pH. Those who suffer from dry mouth are particularly at risk of enamel erosion as saliva is critical in sweeping away food from the surface of the tooth and neutralizing pH levels. So make sure to always stay hydrated. If needed, talk to your dentist about products that combat dry mouth.
Some acidic foods and beverages to be extra mindful of include citrus and citrus flavored drinks, pickles, tomatoes, electrolyte sports drinks, coffee, wine and carbonated beverages including sparkling water. While these items—which fall on many people’s favorite substances list—have the potential to be damaging, they are certainly safe for consumption in moderation. Armed with this information, anyone can be prepared to recognize enamel sensitivity when it starts and jump off the sparkling water train—at least for a few days. Your teeth, and their precious, protective enamel, will thank you.