Why Cavity Protection Is No Longer Enough

Brushing up on the latest pediatric dentistry concerns.

As a pediatric dentist with a busy practice, I see many parents every day who are concerned about ensuring the health of their little ones’ smiles. They share some common questions: Do my children have cavities? How do I get my kids to brush and floss regularly? Is the level of fluoride in my city’s water adequate? Do my children need braces? Will they eventually?

These are all good questions that parents should be asking. But, most parents don’t realize that basic dental care like cavity protection and orthodontia should not be their only concerns. 

The thing most parents don’t ask involves one of today’s most pressing issues when it comes to dental health— acid erosion. Acid erosion is a growing and irreversible problem for both adults and children. While it’s a problem I see in a significant number of my patients under the age of 12, most parents simply are unaware of it.

What is Acid Erosion?

Many foods and beverages that children consume daily as part of the modern diet, from fruit to soda, can cause acid erosion. Acidic foods and drinks can soften and ultimately wear away tooth enamel. Acid wear can have a permanent impact on a child’s adult teeth, irreversibly thinning enamel and changing the texture, color and shape over time. Remember, once enamel is gone, it’s gone for good. 

Though nine out of ten pediatric dentists report seeing signs of acid erosion in their patients, awareness among parents remains extremely low. According to a recent survey conducted by Sensodyne ProNamel™ for Children, 93 percent of mothers don’t think their children are at risk for acid erosion of teeth, and almost half of moms said they are not sure if acid erosion of a child’s teeth can be repaired or reversed, when, in fact, it can’t.

What Can Parents Do?

As parents learn more about acid erosion, they can take simple steps to minimize the risk to their children’s teeth.

  • Wait Before Brushing. Despite what moms and dads were taught while growing up, it may not be best to brush immediately after every meal. After consuming an acidic food or beverage, the tooth’s enamel is at its softest. To avoid wearing away the enamel, children should wait at least an hour before brushing their teeth following an acidic meal or snack.
  • Be Acid Aware. Knowing which foods and beverages are high in acid and may contribute to enamel wear is key. About one in eight moms recently surveyed said they are not sure what foods and beverages could contribute to acid erosion in children. Foods and beverages with a high acidic content include soda, fruits and fruit juices, ketchup and raisins. 
  • Explain It’s Not What You Eat, But How You Eat It. Foods like apples, oranges and juices are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet and a good source of many nutrients. Don’t avoid serving these foods, as there are ways to minimize their acidic effects. Instead, give children a piece of cheese after fruit in order to help neutralize the acid. Also, encourage children to drink through a straw and avoid holding beverages in the mouth to minimize contact with teeth.
  • Provide a Foundation for Acid Wear Protection. Urge children to brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste such as Sensodyne ProNamel for Children, a pediatric toothpaste designed to aid in re-hardening children’s tooth enamel. It is specially formulated to protect against acid erosion as well as cavities. Sensodyne ProNamel for Children’s optimized fluoride formula allows for great fluoride uptake to strengthen softened enamel. Furthermore, its low abrasivity helps resist further enamel wear during tooth brushing. And the gentle mint flavor makes twice daily brushing easier than with unappealing varieties of toothpaste.
  • Talk to Your Child’s Dentist. More than four out of five moms have not had a conversation with their child’s dentist about acid erosion. Make sure you bring your children in for regular check-ups and discuss acid erosion with the dentist if you are concerned.

The first step in helping to reduce acid erosion among children for parents is understanding the effects of certain foods and beverages on tooth enamel. The following chart lists the pH levels of common items that are part of many children’s daily diets. The lower the pH, the higher its acidity. Tooth enamel begins to dissolve at pH 5.3.

Foods/Beverages    Approximate pH
Cola....................................2.6
Strawberry Jam.................3.2
Apple Juice........................3.6
Oranges.............................3.7
Ketchup..............................3.9
Honey..................................3.9
Raisins................................4.0
Pears..................................4.1
Banana...............................5.1
Apples................................5.5
Carrot Sticks......................5.5
Cheese...............................6.1
Eggs...................................6.6
Milk.....................................7.0
Water..................................7.2

To find out more about acid erosion, visit www.pronamel.us.