Dr. Hartman and Dr. Morrow of Elite Dental in Clarendon address one of the rising topics of conversation in their office, eroding teeth and the impact of food and beverages on tooth breakdown. One surprising culprit — sparkling water!
Let’s back up a bit. Food and beverages have a pH value which indicates how damaging they can be to tooth structure. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 with a score of 7 being neutral, 0 – <7 as acidic and >7 – 14 as basic. In the dental world, we are most concerned with those in the acidic ranges.
An important factor to keep in mind is that as you move between whole numbers less than 7, the acidity multiplies by 10. For example, a pH of 6 is 10x more acidic than a pH of 7 and a pH of 5 is 100x more acidic than a pH of 7. The same holds true for the basic side of the scale.
Teeth have two main components that can be impacted by acidity. The first is enamel, the white outer portion of the tooth which is the hardest substance in the body. Enamel dissolves with a pH <5.5. Dentin is the softer tooth structure underneath enamel and on root surfaces, it dissolves with a pH of <6.5. When you start weakening that outer enamel, the teeth become more prone to cavities and fractures, can be more sensitive, and can appear more yellow.
Here’s a list of some common food and beverages with acidity ranked:
Neutral pH 7.0
Dentin dissolves below 6.5
Enamel dissolves below 5.5
- Green tea: 7-10
- Perrier Carbonated Mineral Water: 5.25
- Black coffee: 5.0
- Black tea: 4.5-5.5
- Bud Light: 4.33
- Apple Juice: 4.0
- Carbonated waters: range 3-4, certain flavors will impact and lower the pH
- Vitamin Water (Fruit Punch): 3.65
- Red Bull: 3.37
- Diet Coke: 3.28
- Generic red wine: 3.28
- Generic white wine: 3.17
- Lemon tea: 3.0
- Gatorade/Powerade/Propel: range 2.5-3.5
- Kombucha: 2.5-3.5
- Lemon: 2.29
- Lime: 2.17
So what can you do? We do NOT recommend brushing your teeth right after drinking or eating things with acid. Your saliva is a natural buffer, and your teeth are weakest right after acid exposure. By brushing immediately, you are more likely to ‘brush’ away the tooth structure — wait 30 minutes before doing so. Rinsing with plain water is OK.
Enjoy these food and beverages in shorter time spans and more limited quantities. Sipping or grazing on acidic items (just like with sugar) increases the amount of time the tooth structure is exposed to a damaging environment and can cause more harm. Drinking the more acidic beverages with meals is best, and like everything, enjoy in moderation!