Even for those of us who conscientiously follow healthy diet and exercise routines, there are moments when we can’t (or simply don’t want to) avoid enamel-eroding foods. In past articles we’ve talked about acid-producing foods and beverages – soft drinks, fruits and juices, sports and energy drinks – that manage to find their way into the healthiest of diets at some time or another. Another stealthy culprit worth mentioning is vinegar – a time-honored ingredient that is ubiquitous in the American diet.
Salad dressings, sauces, potato chips, pickles—all draw their flavors from this ancient ingredient. Each one can spell trouble for tooth enamel. In a study, teenagers who frequently consumed vinegar-containing foods had a 30%–85% increased risk of enamel erosion compared with teens who didn’t consume those foods. Since teens are more vulnerable to erosion because of less mature tooth enamel, it’s a good idea watch the amount of vinegar used in meal preparation. Vinegar is a nutritional champion that provides lots of flavor and very little fat. Just remember to use it sparingly to protect your family’s teeth.
There are other fairly simple ways to mitigate acid erosion before it can cause real damage. Try these smile-saving tips to minimize acid wear:
- Consume high-calcium milk or cheese before or with meals to help re-harden enamel. Eating foods high in iron, such as broccoli, may help as well. Try eating a piece of aged cheese – or have a real cheese course, European-style, after the dessert to both clear acid-producing food and neutralize the acids themselves.
- Rinse your mouth with water or have xylitol mints or gum after each meal to help neutralize acid attacks on your teeth.
- Keep snacking between meals to a minimum or try low acid-producing foods such as carrots or yogurt.
- Once you’ve consumed acidic foods or beverages, stick with water- rinsing for the first 30 minutes before brushing. This gives softened enamel a chance to re-harden on its own. Make sure you’re using a soft-bristled brush, and consider using a fluoride mouthwash along with a fluoride paste to give you extra protection from the effects of everyday acids.
- Rather than swishing or holding acidic beverages in your mouth, sip them through a straw to reduce the amount of time the acids come into contact with your teeth. If you happen to be a sommelier, or the designated restaurant wine-taster in your crowd, you can skip the straw, enjoy the wine, and then swish with some table water (swallowing allowed here).
- If you or your family members haven’t been in been in for a visit for the past 6 months, call us for an appointment at 781-826-8395. The team here at Leland Dental aims to be a major component in your family’s cavity-prevention regimen.