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Seven deadly tooth enamel sins

Feb 17, 2012

The seven foods and drinks you are about to read about are hardly the seven deadly sins, but experts have identified several that are particularly harmful to tooth enamel, including a few many of us consume regularly.

What exactly is enamel? Enamel is the thin exterior covering of the tooth but is the hardest tissue in the human body.  It is translucent and helps protect your teeth when chewing, crunching, biting and grinding. Enamel covers the visible part of the tooth and surrounds the dentin. Dentin is responsible for tooth color, whether that be white, off white, grey or with a yellowish tint.

Because enamel is visible it provides esthetic value, but it also serves a functional purpose in that it insulates teeth from chemicals and hot and cold temperatures. Unfortunately enamel has no living cells, so once it weakens, it results in a broken or chipped tooth and the body can’t repair the damaged enamel.

So what are the seven foods that can damage enamel?

  • Soft drinks.  No surprise here, other than it isn’t sugar that does the bulk of the damage, but rather the high acid content.  Also, the clear, citrus-flavored drinks are two to five times more corrosive in dissolving enamel than colas. Suggested alternative: water.
  • Sports drinks. A study comparing five popular beverages, including soft drinks and juices, reported that sports drinks were the most corrosive due to the high acid content. Suggested alternative: skim milk. Skim milk helps users gain more lean body mass and lose more fat.
  • Energy drinks. In the same study noted above, energy drinks were second only to sports drinks in corrosiveness. The study noted that energy drinks are particularly bad for adolescents and young adults because their tooth enamel is more porous. Suggested alternative: raisins. Raisins taken before a workout raise metabolism that help burn more fat. Alternative drink pre-workout: green tea.
  • Fruit juices. While fruit juices are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants, when consumed too often, they contribute to serious enamel erosion – especially citrus, apple and berry varieties. Experts suggest drinking calcium-fortified juices and to practice rinsing afterwards.
  • Citrus Fruit. Fruits like lemons, limes and oranges contain citrus acid and other enamel-damaging acids. To minimize acid effects experts recommend eating citrus fruits with meals.
  • Sour candy. Sour candy manufacturers add extra acids or different kinds of acid to make them pucker worthy. While many kids crave these candies, they are particularly damaging to little people whose tooth enamel is less mature. Suggested alternative: chewing gum suppresses cravings for sweets and appetite in general. Bonus dental points if you choose sugar-free gum.
  • Vinegar. One study showed that teenagers who regular ate foods containing vinegar – potato chips, salad dressings, sauces and pickles – had a 30 percent to 85 percent risk of enamel erosion compared to teens that abstained from such foods. Like with fruit juices, experts recommend rinsing after consuming vinegar-flavored foods.

Sources: Web MD, RealAge


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