Protect Enamel

  Are You Accidentally Eroding Your Tooth Enamel?

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Enamel, which is the outer layer of your teeth, is the hardest substance in your body. It is harder than bones, lead, silver and steel. But a wide variety of drinks, even some “healthy” ones, aggressively wear it away.

“Tooth enamel is harder than steel, but it’s more brittle and easier to damage. People accidentally erode their enamel every day with a wide variety of harmful beverages,” said Gulfport dentist Vernon Beamon, D.M.D.

Unlike bones, injured enamel will not heal. Cavities, crowns, extractions and most every dental problem may start with damaged enamel.

Enamel scores a five on the Mohs Hardness Scale, as the hardest biological material. It primarily is hydroxyapatite, a mineral. Sweet or acidic beverages react with enamel to soften and damage it.

Damage starts with drinks that have with a pH level below 5.5. A very low pH – from 2 to 4 – is considered very dangerous to your teeth, several sources said.

The worst culprits are soft drinks, sports drinks, most alcoholic beverages, some juices and some flavored teas, Dr. Beamon said. “Many of your favorite drinks may be on this list. So if you can’t cut them out, at least cut back and find substitutes,” he advised.

The pH for some popular drinks are: Coke 2.4, Pepsi 2.5, Powerade 2.75, Gatorade 2.9, Dr. Pepper 2.9, Diet Coke 3.1, 7-Up 3.25 and A&W Root Beer 4.25. Others include: lemonade 2.5, apple juice 3.25, orange juice 4, V8 Juice 4.25, and many other fruit juices are 3 or below. Many flavored waters have a pH of about 3.25. Milk fares well at 6.7.

Almost all alcoholic beverages have pH levels of 4 or lower. Wines usually run from 3 to 4. Sweet wines are most acidic (worse). Beer’s average pH is about 3.4. Tonic water has a pH of about 2.5, but club soda is better at 5.25.

The pH levels of coffee and non-flavored teas depend on type and strength, but most are out of the pH danger zone. Coffee has an average pH of about 4.5 to 5.5. Most standard, unsweetened brewed teas have a pH from 5 to 6. Adding cream or milk raises the pH, a good thing. Adding lemon juice (pH 2) packs a negative punch.

Rosehip, blackberry and lemon teas are most acidic, with pHs from 2 to 3. Black tea, with pH from 5 to 6.5, is better. Green tea has the best pH, above 7 to 9 (which is alkaline).

Although your parents might have told you as a child to go brush your teeth after you had a sugary/acidic drink, that’s the worst time to do it. Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing after having a low-pH drink, to give your enamel time to harden up again. But drinking water at the same time or rinsing right after drinking with water is a good idea.

With higher pH, your enamel recovers faster. From black tea, for example, pH levels restore about two minutes, which isn’t enough time to cause damage.

If you “must” have low-pH beverages, drink them all at once instead of sipping for long periods. To cut down on contact with your teeth, drink through a straw, Dr. Beamon suggested.

Do drink more water, especially fluoridated, to help your enamel and health, Dr. Beamon concluded. Water has a pH of 7, which is neutral. Some filtered or bottled waters have pH above 7.

Sources: Beamon Dental, American Dental Association (ADA), British Dental Journal, University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Dentistry study; Minnesota Dental Association, New York University, Healthline, Quora and various professional dental sources.

For an appointment, call Beamon Dental today at 228-896-3600. We serve patients from across the Mississippi Gulf Coast in our Gulfport clinic.