In our last entry, we discuss that Houston dentists know the relative strength and hardness of tooth enamel as compared to other materials found in natural science. Turns out teeth are nearly as tough as a wide variety of rock types, but don’t go chewing on gravel any time soon to see for yourself. The question remains why are teeth, given their strength, so susceptible to damage and decay if not properly taken care of? Let’s look at some basic science to find out why.
Ancient Greeks first noticed that soft, sweet figs had a harsh impact on their teeth and were one of the first cultures to begin to develop ways of cleaning and caring for their teeth. Today, we know that the real culprit isn’t so much the sugar, but rather the streptococcus bacteria that cling to the plaque build-up in our mouths. These bacteria thrive in acidic environments and excrete even more acid when consuming sugar, which is their primary food source.
Acids, even weak ones, can deteriorate even the toughest of materials. Acids measure on a pH scale of 0 to 7. pHs of 7 compare to water, representing a totally neutral acidic level while pHs of 0 compare to the strongest acids known–such as battery acid. For instance, soda can be a 2.5 on the pH scale and can have a significant impact on your teeth by providing a plush breeding ground for bacteria that causes gingivitis, gum disease, and tooth decay.
All acids can deteriorate tooth enamel. The important thing is to rinse or brush after consuming them. Without regular rinsing and brushing after consuming sugary or acidic foods, these acids concentrate to raise the pH level in your mouth and essentially “eat” away at the outer lining of your tooth. You may still consume them in moderation, just be sure not to let the sugars and the acids have too long of a chance to sit in your mouth–rinse with a glass of water after meals.