New technique helps researchers understand how acid damages teeth

how acid damages teeth

How Acid Damages Teeth – New technique

The University of Surrey and the School of Dentistry at the University of Birmingham have developed a new technique to improve understanding of how acid damages teeth at the microstructural level.

The researchers performed a technique called “in situ synchrotron X-ray microtomography” at Diamond Light Source, a special particle accelerator facility with which the University of Surrey has a strong working partnership. There, electrons were accelerated to near light speed to generate bright X-rays that were used to scan dentine samples while they were being treated with acid. This enabled the team to build clear 3D images of the dentine’s internal structure with sub-micrometer resolution (a micrometer being one-thousandth of a millimeter). By analyzing these images over the six hours of the experiment, the researchers conducted the first-ever time-resolved 3D study (often referred to as 4D studies) of the dentine microstructural changes caused by acid.



The study, published in Dental Materials, highlights that acid dissolves the minerals in different structures of dentine at different rates. Dentine forms the main bulk of human teeth and supports the enamel, which covers the crown surface, helping to make teeth strong and resilient, but acids from dental plaque can cause tooth decay which affects the integrity of the dental structure. This research aims to develop knowledge that leads to new treatments that can restore the structure and function of dentine.

Dr. Tan Sui, Senior Lecturer in Materials Engineering at the University of Surrey, who led the research group, said:

“Relatively little is known about how exactly acid damages the dentine inside our teeth at a microstructural level. This new research technique changes that and opens the possibility of helping identify new ways to protect dental tissues and develop new treatments.”

Nathanael Leung, a final-year Ph.D. student at the University of Surrey, has been awarded a GSK Award 2021 by the Oral and Dental Research Trust. He will continue to study the mechanical response of dentine to masticatory forces in correlation with the microstructural changes that acid causes as well as in response to different treatments like fillings and crowns.

This research is part of an ongoing collaboration with Prof Gabriel Landini and Dr. Richard Shelton at the School of Dentistry, University of Birmingham.

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Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Surrey.University of Surrey. “New technique helps researchers understand how acid damages teeth.” ScienceDaily. 14 October 2021.

What You Eat and Drink Can Impact Teeth

Think that only sweet-tasting drinks and snacks are harmful for your teeth? Think again.

Sugar isn’t the only dietary factor that can damage your smile. Foods and beverages that are high in acids wear away the enamel that protects your teeth, a process known as tooth erosion. This changes the appearance of your teeth and opens the door for bacteria that can cause cavities or infection.

What Does Tooth Erosion Do to My Teeth?

Tooth erosion is permanent. If your enamel has started to wear away, you may:

  • Feel pain or sensitivity when consuming hot, cold or sweet drinks
  • Notice a yellowish discoloration of the teeth
  • Find that your fillings have changed
  • Face greater risks for more cavities over time
  • Develop an abscess, in very extreme cases
  • Experience tooth loss, also in very extreme cases

Once erosion occurs, you may need fillings, crowns, a root canal or even tooth removal. Veneers may also be an option to restore the look of your smile.

Acidic Foods and Beverages to Watch For

Here’s a quick tip: If what you’re eating or drinking is citrus or citrus-flavored, carbonated or sour, it’s best to limit how much you consume.

Nutritious, acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits can have some acidic effects on tooth enamel, so eat them as part of a meal, not by themselves. Dried fruits, including raisins, can also cause problems because they are sticky and adhere to teeth, so the acids produced by cavity-causing bacteria continue to harm teeth long after you stop eating them.

Still, the major erosion culprit is soft drinks, especially soda and sports drinks. Even if they are sugar-free, they are more likely to be acidic thanks to carbonation. That bubbly fizz raises the acid level of any drink, regardless of its flavor.

The acid in beverages can also come from citrus flavorings such as lemon, lime and orange. Even all-natural beverages like orange juice or fresh-squeezed lemonade are higher in acid than regular water, so make them an occasional treat instead of a daily habit.

And speaking of treats, some sour candies are almost as acidic as battery acid, and many use citric acids to get that desired effect. If you like a little sour with your sweet tooth, please pucker in moderation.

Tips for Protecting Your Teeth

You can reduce tooth erosion from what you eat and drink by following these tips:

  • Wait an hour before you brush after eating acidic foods to give your saliva a chance to naturally wash away acids and re-harden your enamel.
  • Limit – or avoid – acidic beverages like soft drinks. If you do indulge, use a straw.
  • When drinking something like a soft drink, do not swish or hold it in your mouth longer than you need to. Just sip and swallow.
  • After acidic meals or beverages, rinse your mouth with water, drink milk or enjoy a snack of cheese right afterward. Dairy and other calcium-rich foods can help neutralize acids.
  • Saliva helps keep acids under control. To keep your saliva flowing and protect your teeth, chew sugarless gum with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
  • Look for dental health products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This means the product is safe and effective, and some have been awarded the ADA Seal specifically because they help prevent and reduce enamel erosion from dietary acids.
  • Talk to your dentist. Your dentist can explain the effects of nutritional choices on your teeth, including the various foods and beverages to choose from and which ones to avoid. Knowing all you can about the effects of what you eat and drink on your teeth can help keep your smile bright over a lifetime.

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