BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Over the years companies have shifted from providing more foods and drinks with sugar substitutes.
A local dental expert says that while she's seeing less cavities, she's seeing more of something that's just as bad. Instead of the common cavity, Captain Ashley Harris is seeing middle aged people with shorter teeth.
"I'm actually seeing a lot of patients that are, due to wear. They are eating different things, you get erosion," Harris said.
As a prosthodontist at Keesler Air force Base's dental clinic, Harris works on restoring the missing portions of the tooth structure in her patients who are 40-years-old and older.
She blames aspartame, a low-calorie sweetener found in some sugar-free drinks and foods.
"Because people are increasing the additives because they know that sugar is bad, they switch to the additives which doesn't increase cavities initially," said Harris. "It does increase the chance of erosion because they are still not drinking water," Harris said.
In the dental lab, Harris looks at molds of teeth to plan treatments and a diagnosis. She says erosion is a slow process. However, once patients see and feel symptoms like sensitivity, it's already a big problem.
"It [teeth] has a more yellow appearance. The teeth are going to have a very smooth surface. You may see rounded edges. In some cases we do see chips along the edges of the teeth," Harris said about the signs and symptoms of tooth erosion.
To avoid erosion, Harris encourages patients to limit sugar substitutes and sugary drinks.
"If you are going to add the additives or add the sugar content....you want to make sure that you're doing it around dinner time, or whatever your meal times are. You want to make sure that you are washing anything down with water," Harris said. "The bacteria inside of our mouths don't really metabolize aspartame, but it does change the PH content. So an increase in acid content or a lowered PH does increase the chance of erosion."