October 13/Cambridge, Mass./Journal of Dentistry-- Apples can cause up to four times more damage to teeth than sodas is one of the conclusions reached by a recent study looking at the effects of acidic foods and beverages on tooth decay.

In a study on tooth erosion and decay published in the latest issue of the Journal of Dentistry, researchers studied the link between diet and tooth decay using over 1000 participants between the ages of 18-30. The participants were given a questionnaire about their past and present daily dietary habits and their teeth were examined for damage at the enamel and underlying dentine layer.

Comparing data from both diet and the level of tooth decay they observed, the researchers found that participants who reported eating apples were 3.7 times more likely to have damage to the dentine layer of tooth below the enamel while participants who consume carbonated drinks such as colas had no additional risk of tooth decay.

According to a statement made by one of the paper’s authors, Professor David Bartlett, Head of Prosthodontics at the Dental Institute, “'Doctors quite rightly say that eating apples is good, but if you eat them slowly the high acidity levels can damage your teeth. The drinks most often associated with dietary erosion, particularly cola, showed no increased risk in this study.”

The researchers also found that the likelihood of tooth erosion to the enamel near the top of the teeth near the gums increased by four times from drinking fruit juice and that lager raises the risk of dentine erosion up to three times. According to the researchers, apples, fruit juice and lagers owe their tooth-eroding properties to their acidity levels.

However, there is more to the tooth decay than acidic food. Professor Bartlett states that it’s not only about what we eat, but how we eat. ‘The underlying message is that acids in your diet can damage teeth if consumed throughout the day. These acids can dissolve the teeth if the mouth is not given sufficient time to counteract the effect,” he says. “Snacking on acidic foods throughout the day is the most damaging, whilst eating them at meal times is much safer. The results of this study confirm previous clinical observations and add to our understanding of tooth wear and provide further evidence that drinking behavior and the consumption of foods with strong acidity are important factors in tooth erosion.”

An example of one drinking behavior is the tendency to “nurse” a beer while at a bar resulting in prolonged exposure to teeth by the acidic beverage.

The researchers believe that their results show that dentists and other health care providers need to emphasize that the acidity of foods and beverages are very damaging to teeth rather than just focusing on advising patients to avoid soft drinks.

Source: “The association of tooth wear, diet and dietary habits in adults aged 18-30 years old,” Journal of Dentistry published online September 5, 2011

 From the October 14, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.