What erodes teeth more, fizzy drinks or orange juice? Fizzy drinks… right? Well, you’ll actually find that orange juice and fizzy drinks have the same corrosive power on a per-cup basis. The issue is people often drink several fizzy drinks at once or over time, whereas they might only have one or two cups of orange juice in a day. This raises an interesting question though, because ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is the cause of orange juice’s erosive effects. So what happens when you drink powdered vitamin C supplements that contain 10 times the amount of vitamin C than orange juice? Can these vitamin C supplements actually be bad for your teeth?
In 2012, a study found that chewing vitamin C tablets (in the form of ascorbic acid) significantly increased tooth erosion. This is because chewable tablets, gummies, or liquids all come in contact with your teeth. Although tablets and gummies stick to your teeth for longer than powdered drinks, vitamin C powdered supplements are often a lot stronger than chewable options. As a result, a similar effect occurs. Vitamin C pills, on the other hand, are in the clear as they don’t come into contact with teeth.
Although enamel can decay as a result of bacteria in your mouth digesting sugar and releasing acid that corrodes your teeth, a similar result comes from a diet high in acidic food and drinks. This may include fizzy drinks and citric foods (such as oranges). Milk and yoghurt, however, supports enamel strength through its high calcium content. On top of that, processed foods tend to have higher concentrations of sugar or carbohydrates. These coat your teeth in sugars that lead to tooth decay, so trying to stick to a diet of whole foods is more beneficial.
Our bodies can protect against this erosion, mostly through saliva production, but it only works to an extent. Continuous consumption of foods with a pH below 5.5 will have an effect on your saliva’s ability to protect our mouth and lead to enamel erosion. Chewable vitamin C tablets have a pH of approximately 2.3 – a typical dose of 500mg will lower the pH level of your saliva for up to 25 minutes. However, there are reports that suggest vitamin C helps to prevent gingivitis and keep good gum health.
What to look out for
Simply looking at your teeth won’t help you determine whether or not you’re getting enamel decay or not. It can be very hard to tell due to the slow speed at which it happens, so seeing your dentist regularly is the best way to determine your mouth’s health.
If you want to take an active role in preventing enamel erosion, then there are a couple of things you could try. Firstly, if you consume vitamin C supplements to prevent colds or flu – especially those in liquid form – then finding ways to consume them in ways that don’t come into contact with your teeth is the best option. This is best done by drinking liquid supplements through a straw.
Secondly, whether you use chewable tablets, gummies, or vitamin C powder, brushing within an hour of taking them increases your risk of enamel erosion. That’s right, brushing your teeth can be harmful, because the enamel is softened, so rubbing an object with a fairly rough texture across them can actually be counterproductive.
Thirdly – and most simply – you could stop taking vitamin C supplements. The data out there on whether or not they do help prevent colds or flu is limited, whereas the evidence to show prolonged exposure of your teeth to these supplements has shown extensive tooth erosion.
Finally, if you need to take vitamin C supplements, then other forms of them are available, albeit more expensive. These could include liposomal C, or a mineral ascorbate. Although they come with a larger price tag, you may find they will save you money on dental bills in the future.
Overall it seems clear that extensive or prolonged use of vitamin C supplements made from ascorbic acid are a common factor in tooth decay, but there are preventative measures you can take in ensuring your keep good oral health. These include regular dental visits, living a healthier lifestyle to prevent colds and flu, or using other less corrosive forms of vitamin C supplements. If you must use ascorbic acid supplements, then finding ways to prevent contact with your teeth is your best bet. Even then, there may still be some long term effects.
Vitamin C, in the form of ascorbic acid, is present in supplements as well as everyday food and drinks like fizzy drinks and orange juice.
Prolonged exposure to ascorbic acid can lower the pH level of your mouth to around 2.3, and affect the protective qualities of your saliva.
Preventative measures are available to prevent enamel erosion, such as avoiding contact with your teeth when consuming supplements, or by choosing other sources of vitamin C.