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Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Date:5/9/2009

The way people savor flavor compounds the problem, experts say

SATURDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- People's teeth are wearing away at a faster rate than ever, dissolving under a blistering acid attack that they've brought on themselves, dental experts say.

Dental erosion -- the loss of the protective enamel on teeth -- is reportedly on the increase in the United States. The condition occurs when enamel is worn away by acids in the mouth, leaving teeth sensitive, cracked and discolored.

"Erosion is a chemical process of tooth destruction, not to be confused with abrasion, which is a mechanical process of tooth destruction," said Dr. Melvin Pierson, a spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry and a dentist in private practice in Sicklerville, N.J.

One study, for instance, found dental erosion in about 30 percent of a group of 900 middle school students across the country. Pierson said those results, published in 2008 in the Dental Tribune, confirmed the suspicions many dentists had harbored. In a survey of dentists taken before the study, nearly half said they thought tooth erosion was on the rise.

Why is this happening? Experts blame what people are drinking and how theyre drinking it, for the most part.

Soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices and teas all contain high amounts of acid, said Dr. Edmond R. Hewlett, consumer adviser for the American Dental Association and an associate professor of restorative dentistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Dentistry.

"When we're talking about erosion, it's clearly the acid content that's causing it," Hewlett said. "In soft drinks, especially in cola soft drinks, one of the main flavoring agents is phosphoric acid. That's the acid we use in dentistry to roughen tooth enamel before applying a bonding agent. We use it like sandpaper."

The sugar in most of those drinks also plays a role. When bacterial
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