Acidic Foods and Your Teeth: What You Need to Know

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Some of the best foods on earth are the ones with the strongest flavors. Who doesn’t love the tartness of a lemon, a hot cup of strong coffee, or a deep, rich glass of red wine? Many of those beloved foods get their flavor from their acidic qualities.

Aspiring foodies beware, however: when left unchecked, acid can wreak havoc on your teeth! If you’re going to enjoy these foods responsibly, you owe it to yourself to know how they can affect your teeth.

Why Can Acid Be Bad?

The toughest layer of your teeth is on the outside, called the enamel. It’s their primary line of defense: it defends against temperature extremes, bacteria, scratches, and other hazards. It’s extremely hard; harder than steel, in fact!

But like Superman, enamel has one crucial weakness: acid (and also plaque, but let’s not ruin our metaphor here.) Acid dissolves the minerals in enamel, slowly eroding it away. Your saliva is designed to help with this; it can neutralize the pH levels in your mouth in under an hour, and will repair the enamel to an extent.

But with excessive intake of acidic foods and a lack of proper care, acid can really do a number on your enamel over time.

Acidic Foods to Watch Out For

While most foods are fine in moderation, some are definitely worse for your teeth than others:

  • Sour candy: these sticky, chewy treats can have a pH as low as 2! The sugar also compounds plaque and causes the acidic residue to cling more easily to your teeth.
  • Soda: every dentist’s worst enemy, sodas combine acidic flavorings and preservatives with the mechanical action of bubbles to essentially scrub your teeth with acid.
  • Fruit juice: while loaded with vitamins and minerals, orange juice and similar drinks are also loaded with acid.
  • Alcohol: while alcohol itself is not necessarily acidic, it does dry out your mouth, reducing saliva production. With less saliva, your enamel is more susceptible.

Caring for Your Teeth

If you want to eat acidic foods, the most important thing you can do for your teeth is to enjoy them in moderation!

But there’s something else to consider: when to brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth too soon after eating acidic foods is actually a really bad idea! Because your enamel has been weakened by acid, toothbrushes can actually make the problem worse. You should wait at least 30 minutes to allow the acid to disperse and for saliva to go to work.

Acidic foods can be enjoyed and savored so long as you exercise the right precautions. If you have additional questions, reach out to our dental team. 

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