2016 02 19 13 22 33 259 2014 08 12 15 00 51 292 Soda 200

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4 surprising activities that wear down your teeth

Dental erosion is a common and often painful condition that happens when your teeth get worn down over time. However, some activities, including drinking soda and teeth grinding, can wear down your teeth even faster.

Dental erosion happens when the hard part on the outside of your tooth, known as the enamel, gets damaged, typically because of acid. The enamel is composed of minerals, and, once damaged, the loss is permanent. When dental erosion occurs, teeth can become sensitive and need to be repaired, such as with a crown.

According to Warden Noble, DDS, sometimes people have little control over factors that cause erosion. For example, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and bulimia can both cause stomach acid to erode teeth, and certain medications reduce saliva, which helps protect against erosion.

"GERD is a main cause, as well as increased use of medicine," Dr. Noble said. "Many patients with GERD have rapid dental erosion."

However, other, surprising activities also can contribute to dental erosion.

1. Drinking soda -- regardless of whether it's diet or regular

It is no secret that consuming sugar, including in soda, is bad for your teeth, but a recent research study found that sugar-free soft drinks can cause just as much dental erosion as the full-sugar variety. The study showed that, because of their chemical mix of acids, sugar-free sodas can cause significant enamel loss and softening.

"Most people are unaware of dental erosion until diagnosed, and they appear unaware/surprised that it can be related to frequent consumption of acidic sugar-free drinks," said Eric Reynolds, PhD, the lead study researcher. "There is definitely a perception that because the drink is sugar-free that it is safe for teeth."

2. Drinking energy and sports drinks

Most people know sodas can break down teeth, but did you know that drinking energy and sports drinks can, too? In the same study of soft drinks, the researchers found that energy drinks and sports drinks especially lower the mouth's pH levels, which allows for acid to cause dental erosion. However, they noted that any sugary drink, including fruit juices and wine, can lower the mouth's pH level.

3. Eating only a plant-based diet

Bad news for vegetarians -- a diet consisting of only plants can cause dental erosion. Vegetarians have higher levels of tooth erosion because plants contain high amounts of fiber, and fibrous foods accelerate dental erosion, according to Dr. Noble.

4. Grinding your teeth

While dental erosion is typically caused by acid, it can also be caused by grinding or clenching your teeth, also known as bruxism. Young people are more prone to daytime bruxism from stress, while older people are more likely to grind their teeth while sleeping, Dr. Noble noted. Fortunately, there are solutions for teeth grinding, including taking steps to reduce stress and seeing your dentist to get fitted for a nighttime mouthguard.

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