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Acid is the Enemy by Michael Nigro BDS (Rand)

How does acid damage teeth? Let’s start off by understanding the science behind it all.

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Acid draws out the minerals from the enamel which softens it. This process is progressive and that is how cavities form. In addition to this, acid is the irritant that causes the gums to become inflamed, which is called gingivitis.

We all need to be aware of which foods and drinks are acidic. We don’t need to cut them out but we should consume them in moderation. Fruit is very good for us but teeth will be damaged if it is consumed excessively. The same applies to fruit juices. Young children (under 5 years of age) should drink fruit juice that has been diluted with water. Fruit juices become less tooth-friendly when made from concentrate and when sugar is added because they are then both acidic and contain fuel for the bad bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Children’s milk teeth are much smaller than adult teeth but the other difference is that the enamel, the armour that covers teeth, is much thinner. This means an acid attack will reach the dentine much quicker than it would in an adult. This is why a healthy diet where acidic food and drinks are limited is so important. Sugar, which fuels the acid-producing bacteria must also be kept to a minimum. 


It is vital that children have regular checkups including routine x-rays. Since the enamel of milk teeth is very thin it is important that cavities are detected as early as possible. Once decay has passed through the enamel it is very close to the nerve. It is in everyone’s interest to detect decay as early as possible. Cavities that occur in milk teeth often occur between teeth where they are no very visible hence the importance of taking x-rays.

It is important that parents are sensible and realistic when it comes to their children’s diets. Fruit is an important part of a child’s diet and in the right quantities very beneficial providing essential vitamins and nutrients. Pure fruit juice must be diluted in the young ones and once again moderation is important. Carbonation of drinks increases the acidity so they should be avoided. Fluoride is the weapon against acid damage. Fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwashes will help repair acid damage by replacing lost minerals. Children should use toothpaste and fluoride mouth rinse recommended for their age group along with brushing with an electric tooth brush.