How acidic foods affect teeth

Incisive Bite

with Dr. Sharon Robinson

Sunday, July 02, 2017

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WHEN families gear up to indulge in their favourite foods during the holiday season, tradition often puts numerous acidic foods on the dinner table. If they're on yours, do you know what they can do to your teeth?

There are numerous types of foods that fall into this category.

Foods to avoid

Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes and similarly common fruit items are as acidic as they are healthy, which is why it's important to consume them with water to ensure they don't harm your enamel.

However, these products aren't the only foods out there known for their low pH level. Others include:

• Pickles;

• Cranberries;

• Tomato products (pasta sauce, ketchup, salsa, hot sauce);

• Coffee;

• Alcohol (wine).

Why they hurt

When the acids in the foods you eat and drink cause tooth enamel to wear away, teeth can become discoloured as a result. The weakening of tooth enamel leaves dentin exposed and teeth become prone to sensitivity.

Brushing after a meal is generally a good idea, but avoid doing so right after consuming acidic foods. Acid softens your enamel and brushing too soon will only speed up tooth wear before the enamel has time to settle again. Unfortunately, demineralisation can lead to tooth decay.

How to lessen dental erosion

Try eating any acidic foods alongside foods that have a higher pH level and are, therefore, low in acidity. Some of these foods include nuts, cheese, oatmeal, mangoes, melons, bananas, apples, eggs, vegetables, brown rice, and whole grains. Fish and lean meats also have low levels of acid. These foods may actually help protect your tooth enamel, giving you a nice double benefit.

They do this by neutralising acids in otherwise acidic saliva, and by providing the calcium and phosphorus needed to put minerals back in the teeth.


See your dental professional twice a year for dental cleanings, which play an important role in maintaining your oral health by helping to identify dental erosion in its early stages. If there is a need, they can counsel you on making healthy dietary choices to stop dental erosion if your eating habits are contributing.

Outside the dental chair, keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water so saliva can cleanse your mouth of these acids regularly. Use a fluoride toothpaste which can help to repair tooth enamel and reduce your risk of decay. Keep in mind that fluoride furthers the remineralisation of the tooth enamel.

Swishing with a fluoride mouthwash will also help to lessen the severity of dental erosion. Be sure to floss once a day in your daily oral health routine, too.

Don't overlook the little things behind your daily routine either. Chewing sugar-free gum can increase saliva flow, allowing it to neutralise acids and help teeth to stay strong. After all, a healthy mouth will only help you enjoy your favourite cuisine!

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at Shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, for an opportunity to take advantage of weekly specials.

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