ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
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Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
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The Zen Way to Pain Relief
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ANIMAL CARE
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BONES & JOINTS
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CANCER
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
More Americans Urged to Get Cancer Screenings
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
CAREGIVING
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Many Alzheimer's Caregivers Admit to Abusive Behavior
Medication Errors Could Be Cut: Experts
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
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Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
COSMETIC
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
DIABETES
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
DIET, NUTRITION
Adults Need To Get Thier Food Facts Straight
'Soda Tax' Wins Health Experts' Support
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Arsenic in Drinking Water Raises Diabetes Risk
Home Renovations by Affluent Families Can Unleash Lead Threat
Global Warming Linked to Heightened Kidney Stone Risk
EYE CARE, VISION
When Corks Fly, Watch the Eyes
Clues Found to Brain Mechanism Behind Migraines
Brain Pressure More Likely to Cause Vision Loss in Men
FITNESS
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
You Can Get Great Exercise In The Garden
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
Dr Churchill & Ashley Pelton Interview 1 of 4
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
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'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
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Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
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Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
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Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
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KID'S HEALTH
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Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study
Combo Treatment Eases Wheezing in Babies
MEN'S HEALTH
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Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
MENTAL HEALTH
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How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
Chocolate a Sweet Pick-Me-Up for the Depressed
PAIN
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Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
SENIORS
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Any Old Cane Won't Do
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
How Much Fish to Eat While Pregnant?
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
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Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

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 plaque on the teeth absorbs sugar from drinks and foods, it excretes an acid that eats away at tooth enamel.

"If you are eating sugary foods, the acidity of the plaque on your teeth increases precipitously," Hewlett said.

People often make the situation worse by savoring juices and soft drinks. Holding them in the mouth to enjoy the flavor or the fizzing increases exposure to the acids and sugars in the drinks. "You cause more damage when you drink a large amount and hold it in your mouth to savor the flavor," Pierson said.

Other things contribute to dental erosion, too. Medications such as aspirin can cause erosion, as can conditions such as acid reflux disease or eating disorders associated with chronic vomiting, which expose the teeth to gastric acid.

Pierson believes that dental erosion also is increasing because people are not getting enough fluoride. Many people are eschewing fluoridated public water sources in favor of bottled water, which might not contain fluoride. And they're also substituting soft drinks and juices for water.

"Fluoride helps strengthen the enamel. Erosion is an attack on the enamel," Hewlett said. "You have something that's going to protect it and strengthen it when it's under attack." He recommends that people who aren't drinking public water use a fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinse.

Another way to help stop erosion is to hold off on brushing your teeth for about a half-hour after drinking a soda or a glass of juice, Hewlett said. If you brush right after, you're adding insult to injury by scrubbing at enamel already softened by the acid attack

"You've removed a microscopic layer of enamel that could have been replenished by the minerals in your saliva," he explained.

Saliva, it turns out, helps protect teeth from people's bad behavior by working to return the pH balance in the mouth to normal and restore minerals leached away by food acids, Hewlett said.

"There's this constant balance in the mouth, and saliva is there as our first line of defense," he said. "If someone has a good saliva flow, it can help repair some of the damage."

People who are worried about tooth erosion should talk about it with their dentist during one of the two visits a year they should be making to the dentist's office, Pierson said.

"That's where you get education from your dentist one-on-one," he said. "They examine your mouth and can ask specific questions based on what they find to address your specific problems."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on water fluoridation.



SOURCES: Melvin Pierson, D.D.S., Sicklerville, N.J.; Dr. Edmund Hewlett, associate professor, restorative dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of California, Los Angeles; March 2008 Dental Tribune

Last Updated: May 09, 2009

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