Fizzy drinks make fuzzy teeth! Keeping teeth healthy for a lifetime means preventing tooth decay and erosion. Though fluoride in community drinking water dramatically reduces the amount of decay in all age groups, tooth erosion is a newer phenomenon and one that is preventable.

What is erosion?

Erosion is the chemical loss of enamel due to acid. Acid is found primarily in soft drinks, sports drinks, juices and acidic foods. Acid reflux, vomiting and other illnesses that produce stomach acid in the mouth can also erode tooth enamel.

What is enamel?

Enamel is the protective outer layer of teeth. Throughout the day, your enamel undergoes a continuous dissolving and repairing cycle. Milk, fluoride, water and fluoridated toothpastes can repair and build back the minerals essential to healthy teeth. Low pH beverages such as soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices and wine dissolve enamel. Sour candies can also erode enamel.

How do fizzy drinks make fuzzy teeth?

When acid continuously attacks teeth, they cannot repair themselves and will gradually begin to turn fuzzy and dissolve. Dentists consider every sip of a low pH drink an acid attack. Even one bottle of soda or a single sports drink, if sipped over hours, can do extensive, irreversible damage to tooth enamel.

What is decay?

Decay is literally a soft spot in the enamel which penetrates the dentin, or a hole in the tooth. Decay is caused when the mouth’s bacteria react to sugar. The chemical interaction between bacteria and sugar produces acid. The acid-producing bacteria eat the enamel until a hole is made in the tooth, also known as a cavity. Preventing cavities involves brushing, flossing and keeping sugar to a minimum. Fluoride hardens the outer layer of teeth, making it more difficult for bacteria to penetrate the enamel.

What role does saliva play?

Acid attacks do the most damage when you are very thirsty or have a dry mouth. Saliva, your mouth’s natural defense shield, covers your teeth and provides some protection against acid attacks. When you’re dehydrated, you lack saliva and your teeth are more vulnerable to acid attacks.

What can I do to prevent fuzzy teeth?

STOP the continuous acid and sugar attack on your teeth by limiting the quantity of soft drinks and sports drinks and instead choosing healthy drinks such as milk and water. Reduce the size of the drink and use a straw to draw the damaging liquid away from your teeth. Food consumed with acidic drinks can often help counteract acid attacks. Most important is to brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste before bed to reduce bacteria and to help harden your enamel. Wait at least one hour after drinking an acidic drink to brush your teeth to allow your saliva to begin the repair process. Drinking and swishing with water can also help.

Those with orthodontic appliances need to brush as soon as possible to remove food particles and plaque. They are an the greatest risk of decalcification and should limit soft drinks and sports drinks to occasional use.