If you like soft drinks and carbonated colas, beware. Acids in these drinks may be dissolving the minerals in your teeth — a process called chemical erosion. And don’t think that natural fruit juices or sports and high energy drinks are any better than sodas. They also contain acids that dissolve the surface enamel of your teeth. Once your enamel is lost, it is gone forever. It cannot naturally recover.
Sadly, teeth in children and teenagers — an age group most likely to drink large quantities of soda and juices — may be more easily eroded by acids. These youngsters have not had long-term exposure to fluorides which harden tooth enamel and protects them from acid erosion.
The Difference between Erosion and Decay
Chemical erosion is not the same as tooth decay (cavities). In chemical erosion, acids in your mouth react directly with minerals in the outer enamel of your teeth. In the case of tooth decay, bacteria in dental plaque (a bacterial film that forms on your teeth) utilize the sugars in the drinks and produce acids that attack your teeth.
After Acidic Exposure, Wait 30 Minutes to an Hour before Brushing
You may think that the solution to chemical erosion is to brush the acidic solution from your teeth as soon after drinking them as possible. But tooth brushing immediately after can actually accelerate chemical erosion and make it worse. After they are bathed in an acidic solution, minerals in the tooth surface become partially dissolved. Brushing at this time may brush away the affected layer. If you wait a half hour to an hour, your saliva will have time to neutralize the acids and harden the tooth surface by adding minerals back into it.
Drinks Less Likely to Cause Dental Erosion
Instead of drinking colas and sports drinks, stick to water and/or milk, which have the added benefit of supplying calcium to help add minerals back to the tooth surface.
If you must sip on juices or soft drinks, try to do so only at mealtimes. This is preferable to drinking them all day long, which leaves your teeth constantly bathed in an acid solution. Avoid swishing the drinks in your mouth, and sip them with a straw to reduce contact between acidic drinks and your teeth.