©iStockphoto.com/Domenico Gelermo Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/Domenico Gelermo
Certain foods contain a high concentration of acid, which can break down tooth enamel in a process called acid wear. As well as causing teeth to yellow as their white enamel coating is burned away to the dentine underneath, acid wear can increase the risk of tooth sensitivity and decay.
Not only are the resulting unsightly discolouration and cavities expensive to treat, but the underlying damage is irreversible -- once tooth enamel is gone, it's gone forever.
Although it makes sense to avoid some highly acidic foods entirely -- carbonated soft drinks, for instance -- many significant sources of acid are otherwise wholesome, healthy choices. In fact, some of the very same freshly picked fruits and berries that boost your body's immune system are major contributors to acid wear (see “Secret Sources of Acid,” at left).
Take strawberries, for example. Although they're packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants and can help prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), these sweet treats are highly acidic, and in the same league as citrus in terms of erosive effect.
Luckily, there are a number of strategies that can help you enjoy summer's bounty without sabotaging your smile -- and you'll save on your dentist bills, too!
Wash it down
Saliva is your mouth's first line of defence against acid wear. If you wait until the end of mealtime to indulge in acidic fruit, there's often enough saliva in your mouth to help neutralize and wash acids away.
Don't rush to brush
Brushing your teeth immediately after eating high-acid foods can actually accelerate acid wear. Dentists suggest waiting an hour before brushing gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. You may also want to consider a specially formulated, low-abrasion toothpaste that helps reharden enamel.
Sip with a straw
Avoid swishing acidic beverages in your mouth for longer than necessary. A straw can help minimize acid's direct contact with your teeth.
Set a date with your dentist
Regular checkups can identify acid wear at its earliest stages, before serious damage is done.
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|This story was originally titled "Save Your Smile" in the August 2011 issue. |
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