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Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
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Fish Oil's Benefits Remain Elusive
ANIMAL CARE
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'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
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Osteoporosis May Raise Risk for Vertigo
CANCER
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Vitamin E, Selenium and Soy Won't Prevent Prostate Cancer
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
CAREGIVING
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Diabetes Epidemic Now Poses Challenges for Nursing Homes
Timing May Matter in Organ Donation Decisions
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Health Tip: After Liposuction
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Holistic Dentistry-My View
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
DIABETES
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
DIET, NUTRITION
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Fatty Acid in Olive Oil Wards Off Hunger
Eating Healthy : You Can Live Longer
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Agent Orange Exposure Tied to Prostate Cancer Return
Gas Stove Emissions Boost Asthma in Inner-City Kids
Household Insecticides May Be Linked to Autoimmune Diseases
EYE CARE, VISION
Magnetic Pulses to Brain Improve Lazy Eye in Adults
Time Teaches Brain to Recognize Objects
Music Can Help Restore Stroke Patients' Sight
FITNESS
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
Higher Fitness Levels Tied to Lower Heart, Death Risks
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Trans-Fat Ban In New York City Is Proving successful
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
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Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
Cherry-Enriched Diet Cut Heart Risks in Rats
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Dangerous Toys Still on Store Shelves, Report Finds
Time to Remind Teens About Sun Protection
Help Your Kids Stay Active
MEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Countdown to Hair Loss
MENTAL HEALTH
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
SENIORS
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
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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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