San Diego has some of the worst air quality in the nation, and although it is nowhere near as bad as the air quality in some foreign cities, like Mexico City or Beijing, our air contains some dangerous substances that not only affect our lungs, they can damage our teeth. In addition, there are other types of pollution that can impact the health of your teeth.
One of the most common types of air pollution that can impact your teeth is the presence of acid in the air. Car exhaust; exhaust from coal-fired, oil-fired, and gas-fired generators, and various industrial processes can release a number of gasses into the air that combine with water to form acids. They may also release acid droplets that stay suspended in the air that can be breathed in. The two most common acids in the air are hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid.
Acid in the air can erode your teeth the same way as acid secreted from bacteria in your mouth. At industrial exposure levels, people show the visible signs of acidic damage on their incisors, your large front teeth. If the Air Quality Index (AQI) is 100 for sulfur dioxide it is approximately the equivalent of one-third the acid concentration found in air in a battery factory.
Heavy Metal Poisoning
Another environmental pollutant that can affect your teeth are heavy metals in the environment. These may be airborne, or may be found in water, food, or other sources of exposure. These can also cause damage to your teeth. Metal amalgam is also another source of heavy metal exposure. Although the heavy metals in amalgams are not damaging to teeth, they can damage your body if they are mobilized through vigorous chewing, tooth grinding, or with time.
Studies have shown that people in areas with high levels of heavy metal pollution have significant damage to their teeth as a result. The metals result in roughening of the tooth surface, which makes them more susceptible to decay from bacteria.
Although fluoride is introduced into some water supplies for its protective effect on tooth enamel, too much fluoride can lead to tooth and bone damage. Fluoride exposure most often comes through drinking water, but some coal contains high levels of fluoride, which can lead to additional exposure.
Children are the most susceptible to fluoride poisoning. It can lead to opaque white lesions on their teeth at low levels, and at higher levels it can lead to discolored and damaged teeth.
Protecting Your Teeth
The best way to protect your teeth from damage by pollution is to ensure that there are adequate air and water quality standards that are enforced.
On high pollution days, limit your time outside, and make sure you don’t breathe through your mouth.
To avoid getting too much fluoride, make sure you and your children don’t swallow fluoride toothpaste.
Regular dental visits can also detect damage to your teeth, and evaluate whether you should replace your amalgam with tooth-colored fillings.
To schedule a dental visit, please contact Strober Dental today.