What is your beverage of choice to keep you going throughout your workday? Does your day begin with a thermos full of coffee on your morning commute, and transition into an afternoon diet soda after lunch? If this sounds like your typical Tuesday, we have some news that might make you pause and think about what passes through your teeth as you sip through the day.
You Are What You Eat, But…
Are you also what you drink? If you’re sipping an iced tea as you read this, you may want to think about how you drink too. Not only does what you eat and drink directly affect your tooth enamel, but the way you eat and drink has an effect as well.
Tooth erosion, also known as dental erosion or acid erosion, occurs when acids wear away tooth enamel, which is the substance that coats the outer layer of each tooth. Over time, this erosion can give rise to tooth discoloration, decay, sensitivity, and even tooth loss.
Here are five beverages to avoid and why:
- Coffee – A morning cup of coffee is a daily routine for millions, but coffee’s natural brown tint can discolor your teeth, and the added sugar in flavored or sweetened coffee can increase one’s risk of cavities in the same way as soda.
- Soda – The acids and sugar by-products in soda heighten your risk of cavities by softening the teeth’s protective enamel leaving you at high risk for tooth decay.
- Tea – Similar to coffee, tea can leave your teeth stained if you enjoy dark colored teas such as black tea and other dark blends.
- Sports Drinks – The high acid content in sports drinks can damage tooth enamel even more than a soda.
- Alcohol – The strength of most alcoholic drinks can wear down enamel, and its sugar content can also contribute to periodontal disease. Dark colored alcohols like red wine leave particularly heavy stains over time.
Why Enamel Erosion Matters
When your tooth enamel erodes, the tooth is more susceptible to cavities or tooth decay. When the tooth decay enters the hard enamel, it has entry to the main body of the tooth and leaves behind signs of enamel erosion including:
- Sensitivity – Certain foods and temperatures of foods may cause a twinge of pain in the early stages of enamel erosion.
- Discoloration – As the enamel erodes and more dentin is exposed, your teeth may appear yellow in color.
- Cupping – Indentations (cavities) appear on the surfaces of your teeth
- Cracks and chips – The edges of teeth become more rough, irregular, and jagged as enamel erodes away.
Consequences of Extreme Tooth Wear
If left untreated, severely worn teeth put you at risk for encountering the following if you begin to suffer from extreme tooth wear:
Discomfort Performing Routine Functions
When your teeth are worn, they don’t perform their jobs as they should. Short teeth won’t work properly when you’re attempting to bite or chew, and regular tasks become painful such as eating, chewing or speaking.
Worn teeth don’t fit together in a healthy, natural way. When paired with poor function, the jaw muscles have to strain to get teeth working as they should. Long-term unhealthy jaw movements can lead to damage to the jaw joints and even a TMJ disorder.
Straining to fit teeth together to chew can cause muscle tension outside of the jaw. Facial pain, chronic headaches and migraines can all be by-products of severe tooth wear.
The negative aesthetic changes that accompany worn teeth may suggest you are older than you actually are.
Healthy Drinking (and Eating)
Keep your teeth healthy and decay free by snacking on healthy food choices and equally healthy liquids to maintain a brighter, healthier smile.
Raw Produce – Raw fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that you can’t get anywhere else. They make especially wise snacks because they work like natural toothbrushes, removing bacteria from your teeth before they can affect your enamel.
Water – Water is the best thing you can do for your teeth and for your body. By drinking water throughout the day instead of soda, tea or coffee, you rinse food particles from your teeth and keep your body hydrated. Make the switch to water, and you’ll notice yourself feeling better and more aware of your other choices.
Dairy – Dairy contains phosphorus, calcium, and other enamel-strengthening nutrients. Plain yogurt without added sugars, and cheese help to balance the mouth’s pH levels, neutralizing acids, and help prevent enamel wear. Additionally, cheese stimulates saliva flow, which washes away harmful bacteria.
Lean Proteins – Lean meats like chicken and fish offer tooth-friendly nutrients that support your overall oral health.
Can’t seem to give up that morning coffee habit? Ask us for some tips on how to protect your teeth while enjoying your habitual beverage of choice at your next dental exam so Dr. Okamura can help you make the best choices for your oral health.