Our bodies are incredible machines, capable of protecting and defending against all kinds of threats, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should test our limits. The digestive tract can filter out toxins and the respiratory system has defenses against harmful pathogens, but we don’t go around eating moldy food and taking deep breaths around coworkers with colds.
When it comes to your oral health, you have to exercise equal caution. Even the best defenses, including saliva and protective enamel, can’t be 100% effective when you go out of your way to consume foods and beverages that fight against them. While you probably understand the detriments of sugar, you might not know that acids can be equally damaging to teeth. Which acidic foods are the worst and how do they affect your teeth?
There is no shortage of foods and beverages, both natural and processed, that contain high levels of acids that can be harmful to teeth. The worst culprits tend to be beverages like soda, sports drinks, and juice, but you’ll also find that your favorite citrus fruits feature a dose of acid, as well.
If you’re not sure if foods or beverages contain acids, simply read labels or exercise due diligence by researching online. It’s always a good idea to understand what you’re eating so you can cut back or counteract harmful ingredients like acids.
Enamel Erosion and Tooth Decay
So, what actually happens to teeth when you consume acidic foods? Unlike sugary substances, which cling to teeth and feed harmful bacteria, acids attack the enamel directly, leaching away calcium and causing erosion that exposes teeth to bacteria and other harmful substances. The hard shell of enamel that covers teeth is your first and best defense against tooth decay, and when it erodes, it opens the door for bacteria to infiltrate the soft tissues of teeth, causing infection, cavities, decay, and so on.
Like anything, moderation is advised when consuming acidic foods. You don’t have to give up on oranges and other citrus fruits you love just because they can harm your teeth. What you can do is eat them wisely.
Don’t suck on lemons or limes. When you want to drink acidic beverages, use a straw to limit contact with teeth. Drink water after eating acidic foods to rinse away remaining acid and food particles. Eat cheese to balance pH and other dairy products to boost calcium. Most importantly, remember to brush, floss, and rinse after every meal, avoid snacking on acidic foods in between, and visit your dentist regularly for checkup and cleaning.