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What is Acid Wear?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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Acid wear is damage to the enamel of the teeth caused by repeated exposure to acidic substances. Left untreated, acid wear can cause severe damage to the teeth, potentially forcing a dentist to recommend an extraction. Acid wear has been recognized by the dental community as a growing problem, probably because of increasing acidity in many people's diets, and it is important to be aware of the signs of acid wear, because it is irreversible.

This condition starts when acids in the mouth eat away at the tooth enamel, causing it to soften. Your saliva is actually designed to help neutralize acids, but it can only work so quickly, and it can easily be overwhelmed by an extremely acidic diet, or through frequent regurgitation, which introduces harsh stomach acids to the mouth. Over time, the acid can expose the delicate pulpy dentin on the inside of the teeth, causing severe pain.

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The symptoms of acid wear include: cracking, staining, discoloration, sensitivity, and transparency at the biting edge of the teeth. Acid wear can be greatly reduced through dietary changes, reducing the amount of acid ingested to limit exposure. Soft drinks are one of the leading causes of acid wear, leading some dentists to suggest that soft drink consumption should be severely curtailed, but for people who cannot stand the thought of eliminating soda pop, a straw can be used to direct soda to the back of the mouth. Acidic foods should also not be held or swished in the mouth, as this can increase acid wear.

After eating acidic foods, it is a good idea to wait an hour before brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth right away, your enamel will be soft and vulnerable, and you could potentially damage it. You can also choose to brush before meals, should you so desire, and you should try to eat acidic foods with more neutral foods, to reduce the potential for acid wear. Some dentists also suggest that frequent snacking can exacerbate acid wear, especially when the snacks are sweet or highly acidic.

For people who suffer from medical problems which cause frequent regurgitation or acid reflux, treating these conditions is important, as it will help with general well-being in addition to preventing acid wear. Bulimia is also a condition closely linked with acid wear, and in fact acid wear is sometimes used as a diagnostic criterion for bulimia.

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