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James Willis, DDS
Does Diet Affect Oral Health?
Burke Dental Center

Does Diet Affect Oral Health?

Everyone knows sugar is bad for us. We don't need a dentist to tell us that soda, ice cream, and cookies can cause cavities, but what about fruit drinks, sports drinks, and diet sodas? Certainly, orange juice is healthy, right? Sorry, but even carbonated water, though plain and unflavored, can erode your enamel.

In addition to the sugars and sweeteners typically added to food and drinks, their acidity also contributes to decay by destroying enamel leaving your teeth more susceptible to staining, sensitivity and decay. Even natural, unsweetened drinks and food items containing acidic ingredients such as lemons and tomatoes are brutal on enamel. Considering the fact that the types of bacteria that cause cavities flourish in an acidic environment, this combination becomes more than some teeth can bear.

Many people have become aware of the benefits of controlling their weight through diet and exercise. Be aware that some of the popular dietary supplement drinks (shakes, powders, cleanses, etc) may have relatively acidic principal active ingredients. Such ingredients can contribute to increased tooth staining, hypersensitivity, and cavities. While juicing has become popular many of the drinks are high in acid and fermentable carbohydrates. This can lower the pH of your mouth and lead to the same destruction of enamel as soda.

To guard against the effects of acidic foods and drinks, consult your healthcare team, study the labels of foods and drinks for their acidity, and limit your intake of acidic fruits and vegetables.

For example, the pH of water is 7.0, and the pH of battery acid may be less than 1.0. While no one in their right mind would consume battery acid, some of the foods we do eat are quite acidic. Another example, lemons and limes have a pH ranging from 1.8 to 2.4 while the pH of orange juice is approximately 3.0. Most sports drinks and energy drinks have a pH ranging from 2.5 to 3.2.

Ultimately, your oral and systemic health is your personal responsibility. Only you and your professional healthcare team can decide if you should completely eliminate any of these foods or products from your diet. If you do consume them, please rinse thoroughly with plain water afterwards, then wait approximately 30 minutes before brushing with any toothpaste that contains abrasives.

If you have questions about the effects of diet and nutrition on your oral or systemic health, please consult with your dentist or physician.

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