Acid erosion and your teeth

Dental Hygienist at Bupa UK
15 December 2016

Acid erosion is when acids in your mouth wear away the enamel on your teeth. Enamel is the hard outer coating of your teeth. Acid erosion is also sometimes known as tooth erosion or dental erosion.

Lady smiling

How do you know if you’ve got acid erosion?

If you’ve noticed the following problems, chances are you may have acid erosion.

  • Your teeth may look darker. This is because as the enamel on your teeth becomes worn away, it exposes the dark, yellow surface that sits underneath the enamel (the dentine).
  • You may notice a general wearing away of the surface of your teeth – they may look or feel bumpy.
  • Your teeth may become more sensitive to hot, cold, or acidic foods and drinks. This is due to the exposure of the dentine as your enamel becomes eroded away.

How can you protect your teeth from acid erosion?

Tooth erosion can sometimes be linked to other conditions, such as gastro-oeosphageal reflux disorder and hiatus hernia. It’s also more common in people who are frequently sick, for instance people with bulimia or who drink to excess. But more often than not it’s the food and drink you consume that’s the cause of the damage. Following these simple measures can help to protect your teeth.

  • Try to avoid highly acidic foods and drinks – such as fizzy or carbonated drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices. It’s best to stick to water or milk when you can.
  • If you do have these drinks, restrict them to mealtimes. Have your drink in one go (rather than sipping over a long period of time) and try to rinse with water or fluoride mouthwash straight after.
  • Use a straw to help the drink go straight to the back of your mouth, avoiding long contact with your teeth.
  • Sweets are bad news for your teeth – so try to avoid these, especially between meal times.
  • Milk and cheese are neutralising foods that can help to cancel out the acids in your mouth. Finishing your meal with one of these can help to prevent erosion.
  • Chew sugar-free gum after eating. This will help to produce more saliva, which cancels out acids in your mouth.
  • Wait at least an hour after eating something acidic before brushing your teeth.
  • Make sure you are using a fluoride toothpaste, and brush twice a day – last thing at night, and at least one other time. Before bed, try just to spit out your toothpaste rather than rinsing. Having a residual amount of fluoride in your mouth while you sleep can help to protect your teeth. Fluoride has been proven to strengthen tooth enamel.

Can you get enamel back? 

Acid erosion is irreversible – you can’t get enamel back once it has been lost. But you can stop the problem getting any worse. So if you already have some erosion, it’s still worth making some changes to prevent any more.

What can you do about acid erosion? 

If acid erosion is really causing you problems with sensitivity, or you’re worried about how your teeth look, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about what they might be able to do to help.

Your dentist may suggest using fillings to repair the damage to your teeth. In more severe cases an option would be to fit a veneer (a thin layer or porcelain) over your eroded tooth to protect it and improve its appearance. 

Sometimes, your dentist or hygienist may advise you to use a fluoride mouthwash, and your dentist may prescribe a toothpaste with more fluoride in it.

It’s really important to visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly. Routine dental check-ups are essential to monitor your overall dental health and help you to maintain healthy teeth and gums. And when it comes to dental erosion, getting advice from a dentist or dental hygienist can stop the problem getting worse, or even prevent it all together.

Monica Herreras-Fortuny
Dental Hygienist at Bupa UK

What would you like us to write about?


Bupa health insurance

Heart icon

Bupa health insurance aims to provide you with the specialist care and support you need, as quickly as possible. Find out how you could benefit.