Drinking diet drinks or fruit tea between meals can leave people up to 11 times more likely to suffer from tooth erosion, research has found.
Salt and vinegar crisps are also among problem foods which contain high levels of acid that can wear away teeth, the research from King’s College London shows.
Dentists warned that drinking acidic drinks – such as fruit teas, or lemon in water – between meals had one of the most damaging effects.
Such habits increased the chance of moderate or severe tooth erosion, eleven-fold.
If such drinks were consumed with meals, just half as much damage was done.
The study also found sugar-free soft drinks are as erosive as sugar-sweetened ones.
Their investigation, published in the British Dental Journal, said dentists were seeing increasing numbers of patients with tooth erosion, which may be linked to changing patterns of eating, such as increased snacking in both children and adults.
In the last five years, the number of children and teenagers to undergo tooth extraction in hospital has risen by 17 per cent, with 43,000 cases in 2016/17, official figures show.
Lead author Dr Saoirse O’Toole said: “It is well known that an acidic diet is associated with erosive tooth wear, however our study has shown the impact of the way in which acidic food and drinks are consumed.
“With the prevalence of erosive tooth wear increasing, it is vitally important that we address this preventable aspect of erosive tooth wear.
“Reducing dietary acid intake can be key to delaying progression of tooth erosion. While behaviour change can be difficult to achieve, specific, targeted behavioural interventions may prove successful.”
While their data review found that increased consumption between meals was the biggest risk factor, it also said the way people consumed drinks could increase the risks.