According to the American Dental Association (ADA), around 45.9% of children and up to 80% of adults in the United States exhibit dental erosion. With the summer months upon us, many of our patients will be taking advantage of the warmer weather by getting active outdoors. For some, that means higher consumption of sports drinks, which are one of the causes of dental erosion. Here’s how dental hygienists can help patients to manage the risk of dental erosion and enjoy a happy, healthy summer.
Facts about dental erosion
Dental erosion can be defined as the loss of dental hard tissue from acids of non-bacterial origin. It can arise from intrinsic causes, such as acid reflux or excessive vomiting, or by extrinsic acids such as those found in juices, sports drinks and low-pH food.
When the level of acid in the oral cavity persistently exceeds the buffering capacity of saliva and other measures. The tooth structure is demineralized by the acid and is insufficiently remineralized, resulting in a net loss of hard tissue. Enamel is progressively lost, eventually exposing dentin which is then also affected by dental erosion. Exposure of dentin also leads to dentinal hypersensitivity.
Dental erosion and sports drinks
Sports drinks are intended to rehydrate and restore electrolytes during intense or long-lasting physical activity. While they do this, they’re not usually necessary for the exercise undertaken by the average patient. Despite this, they’re marketed aggressively leading people to believe that sports drinks will support their health.
The reality can be quite the opposite. The low pH of sports drinks (as well as many other drinks) means that they can demineralize tooth structure, also leaving it vulnerable to acid erosion. Many sports drinks have added sugar to provide energy, making them extra-appealing – and extra-risky to oral health.
Supporting our patients through summer and beyond
Since consumption of sports drinks is likely to increase in the summer as more people take part in sports and other outdoor activities. Higher consumption means more frequent, sustained acid attacks on the teeth, increasing the risk of dental erosion. Given that the loss of dental hard tissue is irreversible, this means that the prevention and reduction of dental erosion is a high priority for the dental hygienist.
To help protect your patients at risk for dental erosion, consider recommending an enamel-strengthening, high-level fluoride toothpaste for home use. A prescription-level 5000 ppm toothpaste like Colgate PreviDent 5000 Enamel Protect supports enhanced remineralization of the enamel and fortifies it against acid attacks. 5000 ppm fluorides has been shown in a clinical study using enamel disks to increase resistance to erosion. Colgate PreviDent 5000 Enamel Protect also contains 5% potassium nitrate as a desensitizing agent.
To help your patient get the best results from their prescription toothpaste, counsel them on the risks of excessive consumption of sports drinks and other sources of extrinsic acids, support them in finding ways to reduce or avoid consumption, and advise them on harm-reduction strategies (e.g., rinsing the mouth with water and not brushing immediately after consumption). With this multi-faceted approach, you can help your patients to safeguard their oral health throughout the summer and beyond.