It's time to "rethink your drink," says an Australian dentist who has issued a stark warning about the eroding effects some alcoholic beverages have on teeth.
Sydney-based holistic dentist and health coach Dr Lewis Ehrlich recently uploaded a series of images to his Instagram account @doctor.lewis which depict how diets high in acidity can cause tooth erosion.
"We've all heard of tooth decay but many haven't heard of tooth erosion," he says, describing it as "when acids in your diet start to dissolve away your teeth - the hardest substance in the human body".
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Tooth erosion will happen when the pH level (a scale used to specify the acidity or basicity of a solution) drops below 5.5, Dr Ehrlich explains. It's believed at least 30 percent of people are affected by tooth erosion to some extent.
In the first of three close-up images uploaded by Dr Ehrlich, you can see what the outer surface of a tooth looks like when it's exposed to still drinking water. The image is zoomed-in 7000x, and reveals what a tooth looks like when it's exposed to pH 7, which is quite low in terms of acidity.
The second image is more worrying. It shows the surface of tooth enamel after exposure to a sugar-free Vodka Cruiser. The beverage, according to Dr Ehrlich, has a pH level of 3.2. The image shows how small holes begin to show in the tooth's enamel.
"Note, there are more holes than Swiss cheese," Dr Ehrlich says.
The third image will surely make anyone rethink their drink of choice. It shows what a tooth looks like after exposure to a gin and tonic with a pH level of 2.2. Other substances with a similar level of acidity include lemon juice and vinegar.
The message Dr Ehrlich wants to get across to people, he says, is that "you only get one set of teeth". He says if these popular alcoholic drinks can dissolve the "hardest part of your body", imagine what it can do to the rest of your organs.
"Avoid carbonated and sweetened drinks where possible," he says.
"If you're going to have them, drink them through a (biodegradable) straw and chase them with a water, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth, and it's not a bad idea to have some healthy food around to help stimulate saliva."
But Dr Ehrlich says the amount of permanent damage depends on a range of factors, including saliva quality and quantity, and how often you consume these beverages.