The Pronamel Acid Truth Survey – a revealing new survey into the state of the nation's oral health has discovered that three out of four Australians surveyed (76%) claimed to have experienced acid wear on their teeth, yet less than a third (32%) knew how to protect against it.
The survey highlights the need for further education on the issue; whilst 59% claimed they were aware that fruit could contribute to acid wear, an overwhelming 84% did not know that one of the nation's favourite superfoods – blueberries – could contribute too.
Acid wear is caused when the acids found in everyday foods and drinks come into contact with tooth enamel. Foods with a pH balance below five are considered acidic, meaning they are more likely to contribute to acid wear. Such foods include: blueberries, honey, grapes, pomegranates, grapefruit, strawberries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, green olives, apples, oranges, apricots and dates.
With the increasing popularity of healthy food trends such as juice detoxes, DIY smoothies, clean eating and raw food diets, it's little surprise that 76% claimed to consume at least one piece of raw fruit and/or vegetable every day.
The survey commissioned by GSK, manufacturers of Pronamel - shows that acid wear may be common, and may affect as many as 1 in 3 young adults. It has been thought of as an older person's problem because acid wear gets worse over time, but this new survey, conducted with 18-35 year olds, surprisingly found that 76% of this generation believe that their teeth are already showing signs of acid wear.
Best known for her role as a trainer on The Biggest Loser, TV health and fitness expert Tiffiny Hall said:'I enjoy a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit and veggies, often kick-starting my day by adding a shot of apple cider vinegar to my morning juice.
I had never given much thought to the pH balances of these foods until my dentist told me I was at risk of developing acid wear. Healthy eating is a way of life for me, but I also want to make sure my teeth stay in top condition for decades to come.
Tiffiny continued: 'People recognise that fruit juice, wine and soft drinks can all cause acid wear, but what about blueberries, grapefruits, pomegranates and honey? There is currently very little understanding around the healthy foods that are contributing to acid wear and what we can do to protect against it".
The survey also found that, despite the majority of those surveyed claiming they were exposed to acid wear; only 17% had consulted a dentist about it.
Campaign ambassador and dental expert, Dr Peter Alldritt explained: 'Unfortunately, one of the common ailments of the modern diet is acid wear caused by the acidic pH balances found in some of the healthy foods we eat daily".
When acids come into contact with teeth, the enamel softens leaving teeth more vulnerable to acid wear. As people strive to lead healthier lives with higher fruit intake – often consumed in its raw state – our daily acid intake has increased too.
However, there's no need to change a healthy diet. Dr Peter Alldritt recommends following a simple five-step plan to help protect teeth from the risk of developing acid wear whilst still maintaining a healthy lifestyle:
1. Eat foods high in acid quickly – don't hold them in your mouth.
2. Drink plenty of water.
3. Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking and make sure you're using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
4. Consider using an optimised, fluoride toothpaste such as Pronamel to strengthen enamel and give you extra protection from the effects of everyday acidic foods and drinks.
5. Follow the advice of your dental professional and have regular dental checkups.
No two toothpastes are the same; Pronamel has a unique formulation that has been designed to help keep acid-challenged enamel healthy as it actively strengthens and re-hardens weakened enamel, helping to make it stronger, healthier and better protected against the effects of acid wear. Australians can get to know their Acid Truth by taking the short quiz at www.pronamel.com.au/how_acid_wear_affects_you
Question: What are the unexpected affects the current health food trends are having on our teeth?
Dr Peter Alldritt: What we're finding in dentistry is that people are eating and drinking a lot of things that they assume are healthy and as a side effect to that they're getting acid wear on their teeth. It hardly seems fair but it's because of the acidic levels and acidic pH balance in these foods and drinks that cause softening of the tooth enamel. You can lose calcium and phosphate iron out of the tooth enamel and if that's not reversed you can end up wearing the tooth enamel away from your teeth which is extremely damaging and irreversible.
Question: Which foods are increasing acid wear on our teeth?
Dr Peter Alldritt: A lot of people are aware that common foods do cause acid wear, most people are aware that orange juice, citrus fruits, soft drinks, popular sports drinks and alcohol (especially white wine) can cause acid wear due to their high acidity levels. Most people realise these main foods and drink however they're surprised when we explain that some fruits are very high in acidity including blueberries, grapes, grapefruit, mangos and strawberries and these delicious fruits can cause problems due to their acidity.
Question: How often do you see people like, Tiffiny Hall, who are at risk of acid wear due to their diet?
Dr Peter Alldritt: I work every day in a dental practice and I see young people all the time and I see acid wear on their teeth when they are not even aware that they have it. When I start talking to them about their diet, a lot of them are doing things that they think are very healthy like a lemon or juice detox where they have lemon juice every morning and they haven't stopped and thought for a minute that it is actually damaging their teeth. I see it all the time, as a dentist.
Question: Can only a dentist see acid wear on teeth?
Dr Peter Alldritt: In the early stages it's not easy to see; the enamel of teeth is usually quite glossy and shiny and initially with acid wear the glossy surface becomes more matte and dull with a frosty surface which is difficult to see by the casual observer. When you go to the dentist they have a bright light and often blow a puff of air on the teeth as well, to dry them; when the tooth is dry and under the bright light acid wear becomes obvious, even the very early signs of acid wear.
Early on acid wear can only be diagnosed by a dentist however later on when the enamel starts getting thinner you'll start to notice that as the teeth start to feel thinner, they will feel almost like a rough surface rather than thin and flat. Also, teeth will become sensitive as the enamel (the outer coating of the tooth) has no nerve endings as it's there to protect the tooth but if it starts to thin due to acid wear the enamel is thinner which will make the teeth more sensitive due to the exposure of Dentine which is where all the nerve endings of the tooth are. If you find your teeth are sensitive when you breathe in cold air or have a glass of cold water – then you'll notice the problem.
Acid wear can cause the teeth to yellow as the enamel (the whitest part of the tooth) is being warn away and then the yellow dentine shows through.
Question: How can we prevent this damage to our teeth?
Dr Peter Alldritt: It is a five step plan to help to minimise acid wear.
1. When I tell people that the lemon juice they are having every morning is killing their teeth, a lot of people aren't willing to give it up as they value the benefits they're getting and what they need to do is minimise the damage. I suggest consuming these foods and acidic beverages at meal times rather than at the middle of the day as they are being consumed as a part of other foods.
2. The second thing is so simple, just rinse your mouth out with water after you've been eating or drinking something acidic as you can wash away some of the acidity to start to neutralise the process of acidity. A simple rinse out will help!
3. Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking something acidic; dentists recommend that you wait an hour. For breakfast you may have orange juice, do not brush your teeth for an hour after that orange juice because the damage can get worse as the acid has softened the tooth enamel and if you come along with your toothbrush too prematurely the toothbrush will abrade the softened enamel and make the problem worse. If you wait and hour the enamel has had time to harden and therefore it is safer to brush your teeth.
4. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste such as Pronamel. These toothpastes have a high fluoride concentration in them and they help to neutralise the acidity of the acid and have very low abrasive particles in them which means they won't cause further problems.
5. Go to the dentist! You might not be aware that you are starting to show acid wear, but your dentist knows your teeth better than anyone so they notice early changes that may be showing. Follow your dentists advice.
Question: Can acid wear on our teeth be repaired, if so, how?
Dr Peter Alldritt: No, it cannot. Once you've lost the enamel and it's become thinner you cannot grow it back. Enamel is not like hair or skin which heals and grows a new layer, once you've worn the enamel away it cannot be reversed which means you have to look at alternatives including fillings on top of the teeth to try and protect them. Acid wear is preventable!
Interview by Brooke Hunter