What wears down your teeth

PHOTO: What wears down your teeth

SINGAPORE - Though there is nothing as bad for your teeth as sugar, diets that are high in acidic foods can be damaging as well, as the acid wears down tooth enamel, leading to dentine hypersensitivity.

A recent Pan-European study, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, found that more young adults are suffering from tooth wear and dentine hypersensitivity. Those who frequently consume acidic food products, such as soda, had higher levels of tooth wear.

Acid softens the tooth's protective enamel surface and leaves it vulnerable to further wear from abrasion and attrition, it said.

As the enamel is worn down, the soft, porous layer beneath - the dentine - is exposed, making teeth sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks.

"I would say that 60 per cent of the people who come to me with gum problems have sensitivity issues," said Dr Edwin Heng, a periodontist at Specialist Dental Group (Gleneagles), who specialises in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum disease.

"One key reason is their diet. Young people these days have a more acidic diet."

Some of the key culprits, which Dr Heng pointed out, include carbonated drinks, alcoholic drinks such as wine, trendy drinks such as citrus bubble tea, and popular dishes such as mee siam or tom yum soup.

Dr See Toh Yoong Liang, a consultant at the prosthodontics unit at the department of restorative dentistry at National Dental Centre Singapore, said: "Acidic drinks and food reduce the pH level in the mouth. When the pH level drops, our oral environment becomes acidic and our teeth are more vulnerable to attacks or demineralisation."

To protect your teeth, avoid or limit the intake of acidic food. When you do consume them, rinse out your mouth afterwards with water.

"Rinsing with water will neutralise or wash away the acids in the oral cavity," added Dr See Toh.

It is also best to consume a varied and balanced diet of different food types to reduce the risk of dentine hypersensitivity, he said.

If you have the habit of brushing right after dinner, stop doing so. Acids weaken tooth enamel and leave it more prone to erosion during brushing. Wait about 20 to 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.

"Saliva has the ability to buffer or neutralise weak acids in the mouth. It will gradually clear out the residual acid and lay down new calcium to repair patches of teeth that got dissolved during this time frame," said Dr See Toh.

When you brush your teeth, do not brush them aggressively.

Some people like to brush very hard, said Dr Heng. "They want to keep their teeth very clean so they will scrub very hard. But that will traumatise the gums. Over time, it will cause the gums to recede."

Brush gently and spend at least three minutes brushing and flossing your teeth each time.

However, no matter how well you brush, you will still have to visit the dentist for routine check-ups to make sure you do not have any oral problems. Some of them, like early decay, do not display clear symptoms in the beginning.

joyceteo@sph.com.sg


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