In a recent study, published by researchers from King’s College London, new data has revealed there is a significant link between obesity and tooth erosion.

What is tooth erosion?

Tooth erosion, or tooth wear, is a common oral condition in which the surfaces of your teeth have eroded due to long term exposure to acidic food and drinks and/or acid reflux. As tooth erosion progresses, one sign to look out for is a smooth and shiny appearance.

Another sign is when your fillings start to protrude out from your teeth. This may indicate that the tooth surfaces surrounding the filling are being eroded or dissolved. On a similar note, tooth surfaces that have begun to recede from the edges of a venner, inlay, onlay or crown may also indicate tooth erosion.

Soft drinks – the link between obesity and tooth erosion

While being overweight has been associated with tooth erosion in previous research, in the KCL study, researchers were able to determine that an increased consumption of acidic soft drinks with added sugar was the main cause.

The London researchers were able to establish this link by looking at a patient survey of 3,541 participants that recorded their patient body mass index (BMI), level of tooth erosion and intake of sugary drinks which included carbonated drinks and fruit juices.

Lead author of the study, Dr Saoirse O’Toole, noted that overweight patients who consumed a major portion of their calorie intake through soft drinks were at most risk of experiencing premature tooth erosion, tooth sensitivity and other body health issues. She also pointed out that this type of tooth erosion is entirely preventable, and making basic dietary changes for the better can stop tooth erosion from progressing any further.

Types of sugary drinks that can cause tooth erosion

Common sugary drinks that are acidic and may cause tooth erosion include:

  • Sugar-sweetened and sugar-free soft drinks
  • Cordial
  • Slurpees
  • Wine
  • Premix alcohol
  • Citrus fruit drinks
  • Energy drinks

Food and drink additives that worsen tooth erosion

Check the ingredients label of the beverages you consume. Food acids are usually added to acidic soft drinks, and the higher they are on the ingredients list, the more acidic the drink will be.

Most people have heard of the Coca Cola trick to clean coins – it’s the added phosphoric acid that dissolves the rust. Now imagine what Coke does to your tooth enamel when you sip on it slowly!

The food acids that do the most damage to your teeth include:

  • 330 (citric acid)
  • 331 (sodium citrate)
  • 338 (phosphoric acid)