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Four Factors That Determine If Acids Will Dissolve Your Teeth

In 1942, the average American drank the equivalent of 60 12-ounce cans of soda per year.  In 2004, that number increased nearly 10-fold to 576 12-ounce cans of soda per year. That averages out to 1.6 12-ounce cans every day for each man, woman, and child in the United States. (Source) Although soda pop is the most well-known substance that contains  teeth-dissolving acid, different types of acids are found in many different foods. However, there’s more to an acidic beverage or food than just its pH.  How much damage the acid you eat and drink does to your teeth depends on four different factors.

Four Factors That Determine If Acids Will Dissolve Your Teeth

1 – How Much Contact the Acid Has With Your Teeth

Acidic Drinks Can Dissolve TeethIf you like to savor your acidic vinaigrette salad dressing or enjoy swishing your soda around in your mouth before swallowing, the acid will do more damage to your teeth because it stays in contact with your teeth a lot longer.

Want to enjoy your soda pop while minimizing damage to your teeth? Read How to Drink Soda Pop and Keep Your Teeth Happy.

2 – The pH of the Acid

The pH of a substance indicates how acidic it is.  The lower the pH, the more acidic.  The higher the pH, the less acidic.  If you’re wondering about the pH of many popular drinks, read the article Nine Drinks that Can Dissolve Your Teeth.

If you’re wondering the exact pH when teeth start to dissolve, check out the article What Happens In Your Mouth Every Time You Eat or Drink.

3 – The Buffering Capacity of the Acid

The buffering capacity of the acid is best explained by the following example:  If you drink some sparkling water, your saliva can quickly neutralize the acid and bring your mouth back up to a pH that won’t dissolve teeth.  However, if you drink oragne juice, it will take much longer for your saliva to neutralize the acid.  Orange juice has a high buffering capacity while sparkling water has a low buffering capacity. The fact that saliva can neutralize acids in your mouth is just one of the many reasons why saliva is important. Ole Fejerskov explains this point in the textbook Dental Caries, “Low pH products such as Coca Cola, and tonic water at pH 2.5 are more aggressive than orange juice at pH 4.  However, the high content of fruit acids in orange juice gives it its ability to keep pH low, allowing it more time for dissolution.” This means that although orange juice isn’t as acidic as soda pop, the high buffering capacity of the fruit acids allows it to keep the pH in your mouth low for a longer period of time which allows it to dissolve more of your teeth.

4 – Calcium, Phosphate, and Fluoride Ion Content

In the textbook mentioned above, it mentioned that orange juice with added calcium and phosphate did much less damage to teeth than regular orange juice.  Calcium, phosphate, and fluoride ions are all friends to our teeth.  The more of these ions that are in our mouth, the stronger our teeth will be.

Conclusion – Don’t Let Acid Dissolve Your Teeth!

Now that you know the factors that affect whether or not an acid will dissolve your teeth, it’s time to put it into practice and keep your teeth strong and healthy. This article gives some good advice on what you can do.  It states:

Patient education on the causes and prevention of dental erosion are essential to prevent progression [of dental erosion]. In addition to reducing or eliminating exposure to acidic soft drinks and juices, modified acid beverages with reduced potential to cause erosion can be recommended to patients. Frequent application of high concentration topical fluoride may be of some benefit in preventing further demineralisation and increase the abrasion resistance of erosion lesions.

Some other things you can do to prevent acid from dissolving your teeth are:

  • Rinsing your mouth out after eating or drinking acid-containing foods
  • Chewing gum after consuming acids
  • Not brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acids – give your saliva some time to remineralize your teeth.

Do you have any questions, comments or concerns about the effects of acid on your teeth?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!




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