Wednesday, 05 September 2018
In one of our previous blog posts, You might have missed World Oral Health Day, but don’t miss your teeth, we gave you some alarming statistics that the Australian Dental Association (ADA) and Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) at Victoria University reported in their national oral health report card.
As well as confirming that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in Australia, they found that:
So, how did it come to this and – more importantly – what can we do about it?
If knowledge is power, these are the things that you really need to know and (hopefully) be able to explain to your kids.
Many of the things we eat and drink, both natural and manufactured, have a degree of acidity. The most obvious natural one is the citric acid in citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit), but even apples are fairly acidic (malic acid is the main organic acid in apples). Blue plums, grapes, blueberries, peaches, and pineapples are other fruits that are high in acid.
There are two relevant measures of the acidity in food. One is the pH level. A pH of 7 is neutral and anything less that 5.5 is considered detrimental to tooth enamel. Different sorts of apples range between 3 and 4, orange juice about the same, with other acidic fruits such as pineapple, plums, and strawberries also in that range.
As a reference point, potatoes and white bread are around 5.5, pasta and noodles are in the low 6 range, and (cow’s) milk is mid-to-high 6. A whole egg is about 6.5, with the yolk around 6 and the white closer to 8.
The other measure is titratable acidity (TA), which is the total amount of acid present. This matters because the higher the TA level, the more difficult it is for your saliva to neutralise the acid (which is a big part of your saliva’s job).
Acid breaks down, burns, or ‘eats through’ even the strongest materials, including tooth enamel (the strongest material in our bodies).
Teeth are made up of thousands of tiny crystals of calcium phosphate that are in a constant state of flux, as calcium and phosphate ions move back and forth between tooth enamel and saliva.
Under acidic conditions – a pH level less than about 5.5 – there is a net loss of calcium and phosphate ions from the tooth. This is known as demineralisation.
When plaque forms on the surface of our teeth, the bacteria in the plaque use the sugar we consume as energy and produce acids as a by-product. Those acids can damage the calcium phosphate crystals in our teeth.
The more often you have sugary foods and drinks, the more acid the bacteria can make. If you brush your teeth twice a day, there’s plenty of time in between for the bacteria to produce those acids which cause tooth decay.
So, it’s basically the sugar we ‘feed’ to the bacteria that becomes decay-causing acid.
On the other hand, the acids that come directly from the foods or drinks with lower pH levels (or from our stomach acids if we throw up) can cause the irreversible loss of the outer crystals of our teeth. That’s dental erosion.
Our saliva works to dilute and neutralise acids, however if salivary flow is poor, or the consumption of acidic foods is too regular for the saliva to cope with, permanent damage to our tooth enamel is more likely.
Good luck teaching your kids the good habits and how to minimise the bad ones. If you can set a good example as well, it’s more likely that they’ll follow your lead.
Please keep in mind that we’re always here to help.
For example, we can recommend the appropriate oral hygiene products (Pronamel toothpaste, Toothmousse, etc) to protect against acid erosion and decay.
We can also provide fillings that restore the eroded and/or decayed lesions.
Often, though, it starts with the right advice, so don’t be afraid to ask us how to improve your child’s (or your own) eating habits and oral health.
147 Middleborough Road
Box Hill South, VIC 3128