Amber M Allen, DDS
Creating Beautiful Smiles in Omaha, NE


October 26, 2021
Posted By: Dr. Amber Allen


Acid leads to nothing good in the world of teeth, but unfortunately it is something we deal with frequently in dental health. 

Acid comes from two sources:

  1. Extrinsic
  2. Intrinsic

Extrinsic acid originates outside the body; this would be dietary acid from beverages, foods, and even such things as salicylic acid (aspirin).  There is a wide range in pH of foods and beverages, with citruses being below 1.0 pH (highly acidic), soda and carbonated water around 3.0 (fairly acidic) and tea/coffee generally 5.0 (mildly acidic).  The resting pH of the mouth is 6.8, and tooth decay only happens below a pH of 5.5.  So the more acidic the exposure, the longer it takes the saliva to buffer the pH of the mouth back to 6.8.  See, there is so much more to the tooth decay process than how often you brush your teeth!  You can even find online what foods belong in an “alkaline diet” versus an “acidic diet”.  For example, roasted almonds are acidic, however raw almonds are alkaline – which is more desirable. 

Intrinsic acid is due to acid reflux or GERD (advanced acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease).  It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans has some form of acid reflux.  Symptoms of acid reflux include sore throat, burning in the chest (“heartburn”), and cough/wheezing as acid gets sucked into the lungs.  It gets worse when lying down due to gravity. 

Regular acid exposure, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, has a very detrimental effect on the teeth.  It slowly erodes the enamel away, even into the softer layer of the tooth underneath, which then speeds the tooth destruction as chewing and brushing continue on those softer teeth.  A dentist can easily distinguish between acid erosion on the teeth and enamel loss due to tooth wear, because acid erosion always involves a smooth, matte-finish “cupping” in the tooth structure.

It is imperative to avoid such acid exposure, both to diminish tooth erosion and to prevent tooth decay.  Dietary acids should be kept to a minimum, or at least consumed only at mealtime.  Ways to avoid acid reflux include:  lighter meals, eating more than 3 hours before lying down for bed, losing weight, following a low-carb diet to diminish bacterial overgrowth in the gut, limiting alcohol and coffee intake, and sleeping on the left instead of the right side of the body. 

If you suspect you have have an issue with acid in your oral health please reach out to meet with me. I'd be happy to help fix, and assist in preventing such issues from coming back.

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