Protecting Your Children’s Tooth Enamel This Summer
Sunny days and warmer temperatures are just around the corner, and most people will do everything possible to stay cool. This usually means going swimming, drinking cold sports drinks and sodas, and eating ice pops. However, what seems like harmless summer fun could be wreaking havoc on your tooth enamel, resulting in dental erosion.
What Is Dental Erosion?
Also called acid erosion or tooth enamel erosion, dental erosion occurs when acidic substances eat away at the protective outer layer of the tooth by removing minerals from it. Once this erosion occurs to the enamel, the next layer of the tooth is exposed. Soft and filled with microscopic tubules connected to nerves, exposed dentin leads to extreme sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods and beverages. Enamel is the substance that not only protects the teeth from decay and sensitivity but also gives them their shiny, smooth and white appearance. When enamel becomes worn, the teeth take on a yellow color and become rough and pitted, and they are more vulnerable to Streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that causes cavities.
What Substances Contribute to Acid Erosion of Teeth?
Enamel erosion can be caused by one or more environmental factors or health conditions:
- Acidic Foods and Drinks: Eating sugars and starches is one way to leech minerals from tooth enamel, but the most common cause of erosion is bathing the teeth in drinks that have a pH level of 5 or below. These beverages include fruit juices, sports drinks, carbonated soft drinks, wine and beer.
- Chlorinated Pool Water: A properly chlorinated pool shouldn’t cause dental issues, but those who experience tooth sensitivity after swimming may want to check the chlorine levels. Many pool owners and those who maintain public pools make the mistake of using too much chlorine, which lowers the water’s pH levels enough to damage teeth.
- Gastric Acids: Another common cause of dental erosion, usually on the backs of teeth, is stomach acid rising into the mouth. This occurs with people who are bulimic and those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease.
How Can I Keep My Tooth Enamel Strong and Healthy?
One of the best ways to prevent acid erosion is to avoid or minimize your consumption of acidic substances and maintain regular dental cleaning appointments with your local dentist every six months. If you must have the occasional soda on a hot summer day, drink it through a straw to minimize the beverage’s contact with your teeth. Saliva helps re-mineralize the enamel after an acid attack, so consuming sugary desserts or acidic beverages is best done as part of a large meal because you produce more saliva during meals than when having a snack by itself. You can also help restore the minerals in your tooth enamel by consuming calcium-rich milk or cheese after a meal. Fluoride is another mineral that helps preserve tooth enamel, so use a toothpaste and mouth rinse containing this substance. Proper pool maintenance to ensure balanced pH levels is another preventive measure you can take to protect your teeth. Lastly, if you have a medical condition that causes stomach acids to enter the mouth, seek treatment to protect both your overall health and your oral health.