Tags Posts tagged with "enamel erosion"

enamel erosion

Lemon Citrus Can Cause Tooth Acid Erosion
©Silvia Bukovac/Shutterstock.com

I got the following email from an Oral Answers reader asking about the difference between acid erosion and tooth decay.  He writes:

“What is the difference between acid erosion and tooth decay?  How to I ensure that I minimise both of these.  Also which is the best toothpaste to use to prevent this, I have heard of duraphat (Note from Tom: Duraphat is a fluoride product marketed as Duraflor in the United States) which i know helps with decay and pronamel which helps with erosion but I do not know if both help with both.”

Preventing Tooth Decay and Acid Erosion

The Difference Between Tooth Decay and Acid Erosion

Both tooth decay and acid erosion involve your tooth structure getting dissolved. The main difference between tooth decay and acid erosion is the source of the acid.

In acid erosion, your teeth are dissolved by acidic foods, drinks, or environmental sources of acid that come into contact with your teeth.

To learn how to spot acids that eat away your teeth, read How to Identify Acidic Foods and Drinks.

Tooth decay, however is caused by millions of tiny bacteria that live on your teeth that excrete acid, which eats away at your teeth.

To learn more about these bacteria, read What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.

Preventing Tooth Decay and Acid Erosion

The second part of this reader’s question involved preventing tooth decay and acid erosion.  The best way to prevent tooth decay is by getting rid of the bacteria on your teeth regularly through brushing and flossing.  You might also want to learn about 12 weapons of plaque destruction and these 25 things that increase your risk of getting tooth decay.

 Preventing acid erosion is as simple as not eating or drinking too much acid.  You might be surprised to learn that many of the drinks we enjoy made this list of 9 acidic drinks that can dissolve your teeth.

As far as strengthening your teeth, most any toothpaste contains fluoride, which protects your teeth.  It probably doesn’t matter which type of toothpaste you’re using as long as it contains fluoride and you’re brushing regularly.


Tooth decay is caused by acid from bacteria that live on your teeth.  Acid erosion is caused by acids that you eat, drink, or otherwise expose to your teeth.

You can prevent tooth decay and acid erosion by brushing and flossing regularly and minimizing your intake of acidic foods and drinks.

Do you have any questions about tooth decay and acid erosion?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

Sparkling Water Good for Your Teeth

Lately, my wife and I have been trying to kick our habit of carbonated beverages with sugar and artificial sweeteners.  To fill the void, we’ve started sampling various types of seltzer water, club soda, sparkling water, and carbonated mineral water.  Our favorite, although a bit expensive for our tight dental student budget is Perrier Lemon carbonated mineral water.

Perrier Lemon Sparkling Mineral WaterSince I’ve recently written a lot about how the acids that we put in our mouths can erode the enamel on our teeth, I decided to do some research and find out if sparkling water can erode teeth.  Luckily somebody else has already done the research!

Although sparkling water contains nothing more than carbonated water (perhaps with a few minerals) and natural flavors, I didn’t expect it to be as acidic as soda pop, which also can contain phosphoric acid.  Unfortunately, sparkling water is still very acidic due to the carbonation which can combine with the water to form carbonic acid.

Yes, Sparkling Water Can Harm Your Teeth

Pellegrino Sparkling Water
Sparkling Water Can Damage Your Teeth

A group of researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom wanted to find out if sparkling water can cause enamel erosion.

First, they measured the pH of the sparkling water and found that it has a pH of right around 3.  To compare this with other drinks, you can view this article about the different drinks that erode our teeth.

They took some extracted teeth and placed them in glasses filled with different types of flavored carbonated waters.

How to Identify Acidic Foods and Drinks

Food companies are able to sneak acids into lots of the foods we eat.  On Wednesday, I wrote about the three dangers of eating acidic, sticky candy such as Sour Patch Kids.

Danger AcidI listed a small number of acidic candy that it would be wise to consume in limited amounts.  The major problem with that list is that it’s not complete.  If I were to list every single acidic food, it just might break the internet.

With that in mind, I decided to write a post about how you can figure out how much acid is found in the various foods you eat.  As you read this, keep in mind that you don’t need to avoid all acidic foods, but it is important to know that when you consume acidic foods in large quantities, you can dissolve the enamel on your teeth.

How to Identify Acidic Foods and Drinks

There’s no place on the standard Nutrition Facts labeling to specify how acidic a food is.  Luckily, all packaged food sold in the United States is required to list the ingredients that they contain.

Sour Patch Kids Bad for Teeth

One of my favorite things to eat as a kid was Sour Patch Kids. I remember the first time my mom gave me some; it was love at first taste. I would save up my money and buy them in bulk at the store.

Sour Candy -- Bad News for Your TeethThat was part of the blissful innocence of childhood. If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have spent my money creating cavities. Maybe I would’ve bought a new toothbrush, or some floss. Okay, maybe not; but candy might not have been so appealing if I’d known what I was doing to my teeth!

You probably know that candy is bad for your teeth, but when it is not only sugary but also sticky and sour, you get one potent candy product. Candy with all three qualities – sticky, sour, and sugary – can literally wreak havoc on your teeth if consumed often enough.

The Three Ways Sour, Sticky Candy Destroys Your Teeth

We all know that sugar is bad for our teeth. It feeds the plaque in our mouth. The bacteria then produce acid that dissolves the enamel on our teeth.

Sour candy is twice as harmful because it dissolves the enamel directly on contact. Even if you brush all the time and have a small number of bacteria in your mouth, sour candy will still damage your teeth.

Acidic Drinks Dissolve Teeth
© Rido/Shutterstock.com

Although teeth are the hardest parts of our bodies, they do have one weakness: they can be easily destroyed by acid.  Acid is the weapon of choice that  plaque use to ruin our teeth and they can be found in many of the drinks that we consume.

LemonadeThe acidity of substances is measured using the pH scale.  The lower the pH a drink has, the more acidic the it is.  Many common beverages have a low pH, which means that they contain a lot of acid.

Our saliva normally has a pH of right around 6.5, which is a healthy pH for the teeth.  When the pH of our mouth gets to 5.5 or below, the enamel on our teeth starts to dissolve.  When you drink something that has a pH lower than 5.5, it starts to eat away at your teeth.  Of course, you can drink these drinks and still have healthy teeth, there are a lot of factors involved.  I’ll get in to a few of them at the end of the list.  Here they are:

Nine Drinks that Can Dissolve Your Teeth

1. Sports Drinks – While sports drinks are great for re-hydration, their acidic nature can cause them to be harmful to your teeth.  The two leading brand names both have a pH of less than 3.

  • Powerade is the most acidic at a pH of 2.75
  • Gatorade has a pH of 2.95

2. Fruit Juice – Fruit juice is good for you, but if you have the option, it’s always best to eat whole fruits as they are better for your teeth, and contain fiber to help your digestive system.  Here are the pH’s of some common juices:

Fluoride Protects Teeth

Fluoride is an ion that has proven to be very effective at keeping our smiles looking as good as they can for as long as they can.  In the early 1900’s, a group of children were discovered in Colorado that had brown teeth.  Their dentist also noticed that these stained teeth were very resistant to tooth decay.

After a lot of research, it was discovered that the mysterious element behind their ugly, cavity-resistant teeth was the fluoride ion.

The Three Ways Fluoride Protects Your Teeth

1. Fluoride incorporates itself into our teeth everyday through remineralization.

The Mineral Fluorite
The Mineral Fluorite

This is the most important way that fluoride protects our teeth!

When you eat a meal, you’re not just feeding yourself, you’re feeding thousands of bacteria inside of your mouth.  After they’re done eating, they excrete acid which slowly dissolves your teeth  (See my post entitled What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque for more on this.)

Luckily, our saliva has a neutralizing action on this acid.  After our saliva has neutralized the acid, it goes to work building back our enamel.  If you have fluoride available in your saliva, then your teeth an be repaired with fluorapatite instead of hydroxyapatite.  This means that the next time you eat, your teeth will be much more resistant to the acid that the plaque in your mouth is producing.  So, even if you didn’t have fluoridated water when you were little (I didn’t), you can still get the benefits of fluoride in your mouth everyday when your enamel remineralizes after a meal!

2. Fluoride helps children up to age 7 while their permanent teeth develop. Fluoride ingested at a young age can help alter the structure of the tooth enamel to make it stronger.  Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, and it coats the visible surface of all the teeth in our mouth.  Enamel is made up of tiny crystals called hydroxyapatite. When fluoride is available during tooth development, it incorporates itself into the enamel structure to create fluorapatite. Fluorapatite is much more resistant to the acid that dental plaque produces.  You can think of it as a strong shield that your body has in the fight against tooth decay.

3. Fluoride can decrease the acid production of plaque — you can think of it as a poison for plaque. Fluoride is able to inhibit some of the enzymes that the bacteria use to create acid.  Although it doesn’t completely stop the production of acid, it is able to put a big dent in its acid production.   This is a major factor in the reduction of tooth decay.  Just imagine, if the bacteria in your mouth can’t produce as much of the acid that destroys your teeth, then your teeth will remain stronger and healthier.


While fluoride can drastically improve the lifespan of your teeth, it can’t do it all.  For example, if you get the daily recommended amount of fluoride but aren’t removing the plaque from your teeth, eventually the plaque will build up a big enough barrier than the fluoride can’t make it to the tooth surface.  So even if you’re getting an optimal amount of fluoride in your diet it is still important to brush and floss daily.

If you have any questions about fluoride, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!