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Soda pop & Lemons

Acid causes more decay than sugar, dentist says

By Jean Tarbett - The Herald-Dispatch

Patients are often taken aback when dentist Jeffrey Wilcox can declare them a pop-drinker, just from looking at their X-rays.

It’s not magic, he said. He can tell from their tooth decay.

Acid, even more than than sugar, should be public enemy No. 1 when it comes to tooth decay, Wilcox says in his new book: "Acid Attack: The Real Causes of Dental Problems and How to Avoid Them."

When people hear that, they’re surprised at first, he said. But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Think back to high school chemistry classes when you put an item in acid, said Wilcox, a dentist for the past 27 years. The acid dissolved it.

"I really haven’t made any earthshaking discoveries. It’s just what I’ve observed," said the 54-year-old Huntington native and graduate of the West Virginia University School of Dentistry. "Every dentist who has been in practice for any length of time has had a patient with bulimia, and stomach acid ruins teeth also.

"Every dentist knows that acid is bad for your teeth, but no one that I know, other than me, has said that acid isn’t just one of the causes of tooth decay, it’s the cause."

Sugar isn’t great for teeth either, he said. It feeds germs on the teeth and causes plaque. But when someone comes in with major tooth decay, he can guess that it’s from one of the following: pop, grapefruit, lemons or sour candy.

"Some of this has to do with your body chemistry," Wilcox said. "Some people by nature have a very acidic system. They are really prone to decay so acid is a real problem for their teeth." Other people have a very alkaline system, and can drink pop all day without a problem.

What he tells them the less fortunate: "You can either have your teeth or your pop habit. You cannot have both."

Usually when they get off acidic foods and drinks, they see improvements, he said.

Another tidbit: Another problem people have with their teeth is caused by poor flossing. Gum disease is caused by plaque germs under gums, Wilcox said. Flossing is designed to go under gums. "If the floss doesn’t go under gums when you’re flossing, it doesn’t do you a lot of good," he said. For a demonstration, go to

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