Acidic Foods that Cause Tooth Decay

Your smile says a lot about you. That’s why protecting your pearly white teeth is so important. Of course, any good dental care routine starts with brushing and flossing twice daily but it shouldn’t end there.

The foods and beverages that we consume can and do have a lasting impact on our oral and dental health. Too many sugary sports drinks and lollipops can lead you down the road to dental caries and root canals faster than you can say, “Ah!” And even the sweet taste of seemingly healthy all-natural fruit juices can hide cavity-causing ingredients.

Of all of the foods and drinks that we consume, acidic foods that erode tooth enamel and encourage dental plaque are, perhaps, the worst for our smiles. If you want a smile that shines as brightly as you do then you’ll want to avoid these acidic foods and drinks—or consume them with caution.

How Acidity Affects Your Smile

Scientists measure acidity using the pH scale (or potential of hydrogen scale). The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 with lower numbers indicating higher acidity and higher numbers indicating greater alkalinity. Substances and compounds that rank at either end of the pH scale are highly corrosive and can be harmful to health—and healthy smiles. Fortunately, our mouths naturally have a neutral pH level of anywhere between 6.2 and 7.6.

An imbalanced oral pH level, even if only temporary, can cause enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, and horrifyingly bad breath. If for no other reason than producing an alpine-fresh smile, it’s important to monitor your oral pH level.

One of the main reasons that dentists recommend brushing and flossing twice daily is to remove dental plaque as, over time, the bacteria that cause plaque buildup produce acids. And, as we’re about to learn, acids are no friend to big, bright smiles.

Acidic Foods and Drinks

  • Citrus Fruits

Lemons and limes have a pH level of anywhere between 2 and 2.6 on average. For all of their health benefits—hello Vitamin C—it’s difficult to find anything edible with a greater level of acidity. Even diluted in water, lemon and lime juice can erode tooth enamel very quickly.

  • Soda

Soda beverages such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Canada Dry are shockingly acidic. A 2017 study found that soda beverages and all of their flavour variations had pH levels ranging from 2.3 to 5.24 with most falling in the range of 2.3 to 3.0. That’s only slightly better than undiluted lemon and lime juice but more of a concern because of their serving sizes and palatability.

  • Alcohol

Alcohol has uses as a social lubricant and icebreaker… just don’t smile too much when you’re drinking it. Many popular alcoholic beverages such as red and white wine, cider, and champagne have very low pH levels. Darker beverages such as rum and cognac tended to be less acidic but gin was the most neutral with a pH level of 7. Nevertheless, drink responsibly.

  • Sports Drinks

The same 2017 study that looked at the acidity of soda beverages found that sports drinks weren’t much better for your smile. Though the average pH level of sports drinks was closer to 3, many of them would cause just as much tooth erosion as a glass of soda topped off with lemon juice.

  • Coffee (It’s True, We’re Sorry)

If you’re anything like us, you need coffee to get going in the morning—and to keep going throughout the day. That morning cup of go-go juice, however, does some damage to your teeth. A 2018 study found that cold brew and hot brewed coffee had pH levels ranging from 4.85 to 5.13. While that’s not nearly as acidic as a cupful of lemon juice, it’s enough to cause enamel erosion and leave you with a less than radiant—albeit energetic—smile.

There are definitely more acidic foods out there—apples, grapes, and ketchup for example feature on most lists of acidic foods and drinks. If you’re uncertain about the acidity of any given food item, you can always look it up online. However, just because a food item or beverage is acidotic doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy it. And keep your teeth.

How to Prevent Tooth Decay from Acidic Foods

Changing your diet for health reasons is never easy. But protecting your teeth from acidic foods and drinks and preventing tooth decay is a cinch.

  • Floss and Brush Your Teeth Twice Daily

Sometimes, maintaining your oral pH level is as simple as brushing and flossing your teeth twice every day. Flossing removes debris from potentially acidic foods while brushing removes plaque buildup from acid-producing bacteria.

  • Use a Fluoride Toothpaste

The American Dental Association has, for years, recognized the benefits of fluoride in creating brighter smiles. Fluoride toothpaste can help prevent tooth decay and reduce your chances of developing dental caries (or cavities).

  • Use a Straw

Drinking acidic beverages through a straw can reduce the amount of contact they’ll have with your sensitive teeth and enamel. It might not look glamorous to drink everything through a straw like a child but you can laugh at everyone else when you win the Annual Brightest Smile Contest.

  • Rinse Your Mouth with Water

We need coffee! If staying clear of acidic foods isn’t in your dietary future then you can still enjoy all of your low-pH fares and keep your smile. Rinse out your mouth with water after consuming acidic foods to rebalance your oral pH level. For an added boost to your dental health, make it a warm salt rinse.

Find a Dentist Near You

Even if you’ve been carefully taking care of your teeth and dodging acidic foods and drinks, you’ll still need the help of a dentist for a vibrant smile. Dawson Dental has over 30 locations across southern Ontario. Find our office nearest to you and come show us that acid-free smile!