Some Forms of Supplements Can Actually Harm Your Oral Health
Nutrition experts encourage daily supplementation of vitamin C for everyone. It protects against everything from sudden infant death syndrome (S.I.D.S) to scurvy, heart disease, and in some cases, cancer. Two-time Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, recommended a whopping 3 grams of vitamin C every day for the average healthy male, and 6 grams for those at risk of heart disease. There are many methods of vitamin C supplementation, in the form of capsules, powders and syrups. For decades, parents have been providing their children with chewable vitamin C pills.
Chewable Pills and Citrus Toothpaste
Vitamin C is destructive to tooth enamel, so chewable pills may lead to increased cavities, particularly in those who are lacking minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin C should never be taken in a manner which leaves residues of it on the teeth for an extended time. Some well-intentioned toothpaste manufacturers have misguidedly added vitamin C or “citrus” to their formulas, without realizing the dental problems that this presents. Similarly, some alternative medicine sites on the Internet recommend cleaning the teeth with lemon-based solutions. Citrus acids have the tendency to make the teeth feel clean. This occurs partly because the acid strips the teeth of everything, including the minerals bonding with them. It can cause long-term enamel damage; especially when it is combined with abrasives or stiff bristle brushes.
Vitamin C when taken internally actually strengthens teeth, and the rest of the body. However, it should never be kept in direct contact with the teeth. It is strongly recommended for those who are brushing their teeth with citrus formulas to discontinue immediately. Toothpastes which contain calcium carbonate are ideal for long-term dental health and for tooth whiteness. Toothpastes containing phosphorus (phosphates) are even better.
Fizzy Vitamin Supplements
We know that sugar-filled juices and canned drinks such as cola and lemonade can cause tooth decay – yet few of us would think fizzy vitamin preparations can have similar effects. However, a study at the University of Helsinki on eight types of effervescent vitamins found they could all have corrosive effects on teeth.
Leaching out the minerals contained in teeth, they left them weaker, more porous and prone to decay.
In the research, teeth were soaked in the vitamin drinks for 100 hours. All of them – including those drinks that contained calcium – caused demineralization. The effects were worst in the Vitamin C products, where teeth were corroded so severely that dentine, the sensitive layer beneath the enamel was exposed.
“When you drink fizzy vitamins, you wouldn’t expose your teeth for anything near this length of time,” says Dr. Mervyn Druian, spokesperson for the British Dental Association. “However, if you drink one of these dissolved tablets each day, it is likely that they would weaken your teeth.”
Citric acid, the primary ingredient of many fizzy vitamin drinks, has been found by researchers at the University of Baltimore Dental School to cause dental erosion. While this erosion is less than in drinks that also contain sugar, it is still significant.
“Dental erosion is caused by acidic solutions which come into contact with the teeth,” says Dr. Adam Thorne, dental surgeon at the Harley Street Dental Studio. “Because the critical pH of dental enamel is 5.5, any solution with a lower pH value may cause erosion, particularly over a long period or if it is taken regularly.”
The danger of these soluble vitamins is that they are marketed for daily use and consumers tend to take them with breakfast and brush their teeth shortly after. “For an hour after you have an acidic drink such as a fizzy vitamin, cola or apple juice, your tooth enamel will remain softened,” says Dr. Thorne. “During this period, teeth become more vulnerable to corrosion, sensitivity and decay. Vitally, if you brush your teeth during this time, you are likely to brush away a layer of tooth enamel.”
How Can You Protect Your Teeth from the Effect of Chewable or Fizzy Supplements?
The strength of teeth changes continually over the course of a day, with minerals being taken out and replaced according to the foods you eat and drink. “Whenever we have an acidic drink, minerals are leached out of the teeth to help neutralize the acid. Saliva is slightly alkaline, so it also has a neutralizing effect,” says Dr. Druian.
“After a few hours, the neutralizing action of saliva takes over, and calcium and other minerals are gradually put back in the teeth.”
Dairy products such as cheese and milk have an alkaline pH that help neutralize acids. They also contain minerals. Eating these after an acid drink will help reduce acid levels and re-mineralize teeth at a faster rate.
“Don’t brush your teeth for at least an hour and don’t swish the fizzy vitamin drink around your mouth,” states Dr. Durian. “You can also chew some sugar-free gum to increase the flow of saliva. Ultimately, if you are worried about the effects of these vitamins on your mouth, drink them through a straw or switch to a vitamin pill.”
Sources: KnowYourTeeth.com, HealthWyze.org, DailyMail.co.uk