New Zealanders' love of acidic food and drinks is creating a growing trend of dental problems with their teeth - but many are unwilling to change their habits, a new study has found.

The survey of 1000 people - commissioned by GlaxoSmithKline New Zealand - found Kiwis were very fond of things that cause acid wear, which can result in loss of tooth enamel, sensitive teeth or other problems.

It also found that more than half of people with acid wear said they still ate and drank what they wanted, despite knowing the effects.

Acidic drinks and food that can contribute to acid wear include daily staples for many people such as fruit juice, salad dressings, soft drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, tea and coffee.


"In recent years, we've seen a rise in the number of people suffering from acid wear, and it's often due to a high consumption of acids found in fruit juice, energy drinks and alcohol," said Dr Usha Narshai of Grey Lynn Dental.

"I see many patients with sensitive teeth and often they're unaware of the damage that can be caused by acidic food and drink ... and once your tooth enamel is gone, it's gone. The effects of acid wear cannot be reversed."

Seventy-one per cent drank alcohol regularly, 56 per cent drinking wine at least weekly. More than 70 per cent drank tea or coffee at least once a week, over half of those having a daily brew.

Seventy-two per cent had salad dressing at least once or more a week, while 39 per cent drank fruit juice at least once or more every week.

Nutrition consultant Kate Gray said the rise in popularity of soft drinks, energy drinks and flavoured water was a recent phenomenon. "These drinks are laden with sugar and acidic ingredients including phosphoric and carbonic acid, while orange and other citrus juices contain natural acids like citric acid and ascorbic acid, which can still be harmful."

Overall, people rated their smiles their most important physical trait but only a third of people claimed to visit the dentist annually and two-thirds had never been to a dental hygienist.

Dr Narshai said: "Regular check-ups ... help detect early acidic wear to teeth, and there are a number of easy steps people can take to protect the development of acid wear".


Natalie HindsonIn her work as a barista, Natalie Hindson drinks several coffees a day - but the risk of acid wear to her teeth won't make her cut it out of her routine.

When the Herald put study findings to her yesterday about acidic food and drinks linked to dental problems in Kiwis, Miss Hindson, 26, said: "I don't think I would change what I'm drinking. I would more so change the toothpaste I'm using, or something like that".

"I'm more concerned about the dairy intake as opposed to the acid intake I guess. I would tend to drink more long blacks ... which may have even more of a detrimental effect [in acid intake].

"I use the toothpaste for coffee drinkers - so you don't get the staining. I think dental hygiene is really important. I don't do soft drinks or anything like that."

Drinking coffee is about "quality control" in her job at Christchurch's Addington Coffee Co-Op. "I think it's the sign of a good barista to be able to know they are producing a good coffee. I don't need it to get through the day."


Five easy steps to avoid acid wear:

* Avoid brushing immediately after consuming acidic foods and drinks as this is when the enamel is at its softest.
* Drink fizzy drinks and fruit juices quickly, don't swish them around or hold them in the mouth for long periods of time.
* Be aware of hydration levels. Dehydration results in less saliva production and less protection against acid wear.
* Balance acidic foods with neutral foods to reduce acidic effect.