(HealthDay News) -- High acidity levels in soft drinks, fruit juice and sports beverages pose a threat to youngsters' teeth, a new study reports.
"Our research has shown that permanent damage to the tooth enamel will occur within the first 30 seconds of high acidity coming into contact with the teeth. This is an important finding and it suggests that such drinks are best avoided," study corresponding author Dr. Sarbin Ranjitkar, of the Craniofacial Biology Research Group at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said in a university news release.
"If high acidity drinks are consumed, it is not simply a matter of having a child clean their teeth an hour or 30 minutes later and hoping they'll be OK -- the damage is already done," he added.
The findings were recently published in the Journal of Dentistry.
Normally, Ranjitkar said, there's a balance between acids and protective mechanisms in a healthy mouth. But, "once that balance is shifted in favor of the acids, regardless of the type of acid, teeth become damaged," he explained.
High acidity drinks also can combine with other factors to cause major, irreversible damage to youngsters' teeth, according to Ranjitkar.
"Often, children and adolescents grind their teeth at night, and they can have undiagnosed regurgitation or reflux, which brings with it acidity from the stomach. Combined with drinks high in acidity, this creates a triple threat to young people's teeth which can cause long-term damage," he said.
Tooth erosion caused by acidic beverages is on the rise in children and young adults, according to Ranjitkar.
"Dental erosion is an issue of growing concern in developed countries, and it is often only detected clinically after extensive tooth wear has occurred," he said. "Such erosion can lead to a lifetime of compromised dental health that may require complex and extensive rehabilitation -- but it is also preventable with minimal intervention."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about child dental health.
SOURCE: University of Adelaide, news release, Aug. 5, 2014