It’s not surprising there is a strong relationship between the foods you eat and your dental health. While you probably grew up being told not to eat sugar because it causes cavities, you might be surprised that sweets are not the only culprit when it comes to tooth decay and possible damage to teeth. Here we look at the foods that can cause damage to teeth and why they should only be enjoyed in moderation.
The main problem with sweets like candies is they tend to be enjoyed over a longer period of time. Unlike cookies, cakes, pies, or a bowl of ice cream, you often chew on candy for a long while or place it in your mouth and let it melt. The worst culprits are things like caramels, hard candies, and lollipops, as the constant presence of the sugar in your mouth interferes with your mouth’s ability to use your saliva to wash that sugar away. However, these types of candies can also cause damage to teeth such as chips, breaks, or cracks, as they are difficult to bite and chew.
Your best bet is to avoid these foods altogether, or at least choose sweets that are eaten a little more quickly. However, you might also be enjoying what you consider a healthy food choice that is just as bad as these sticky, sugary candies: dried fruit. Dried fruit has the same stickiness as caramels and toffee and as a result, once chewed they can leave a lot of debris that sticks to your teeth. To ensure you aren’t increasing the risk for tooth decay when enjoying sweets, choose to eat them after your main meal and then brush your teeth about 20 to 30 minutes after indulging your sweet tooth to avoid damage to teeth.
Both sodas and fruit juices contain acid and sugar, even when you choose sugar-reduced or sugar-free options. These sugary drinks pack a double whammy of risk because not only do they contain sugar, but also acids that can lead to dental erosion. Your best bet is to choose water or unsweetened tea. However, dark teas can also lead to stained teeth.
As a rule, never brush your teeth directly after enjoying sugary drinks because your teeth are more vulnerable to the abrasion of your toothbrush. Wait a good 30 minutes or rinse your mouth with water instead. This includes high-carb sports drinks as well. They are both acidic and thick which means they are more likely to stick to your teeth. Your safest bet to avoid damage to teeth is to reach for a glass of cold water instead.
Pickles contain high acids from vinegar. However, many also contain a surprising amount of sugar. The vinegar can wear away at your teeth, while the sugar promotes decay and cavities. If you have jumped on the apple cider vinegar craze to take advantage of its detoxifying properties, keep in mind it is also acidic. To avoid tooth erosion, always add water to the vinegar, or do it like a “shooter” instead of sipping it. Rinse your mouth thoroughly to get rid of the acid.
While you’ve probably heard red wine can stain your teeth, any kind of wine contains enamel-softening acid. The tannins in red wine not only cause staining but also cause mouth dryness which prevents your saliva from doing its job. A good rule of thumb is to brush your teeth before enjoying a glass of wine so there isn’t as much plaque for the wine to cling to. If you can’t brush before, wait at least 30 minutes after to brush your teeth or else you force the acid right into your enamel causing damage to teeth.
Since citrus fruits provide much-needed vitamins, it’s not easy to advise you to avoid them altogether. However, they do contain citric acid that contributes to enamel erosion. The worst citrus fruits that cause damage to teeth are lemons, limes, and grapefruit. If you drink these juices, use a straw so the juice goes past your teeth to prevent acid from causing damage. Another tip is to avoid putting wedges of these fruits in your drinks. If served a drink with citrus wedges, put them aside instead of squeezing them in your drink or sucking on them.
Foods like crackers are high in refined carbohydrates. The carbs cause inflammation which can lead to periodontitis and gingivitis, diseases of the gums. Because your gums support your teeth, you want to keep them healthy. Otherwise, you can suffer from several issues: from receding gum lines, to teeth sensitivity and decay below the gumline, to loose or lost teeth.
All sugars are bad for your teeth when consumed too often. Because they make your mouth more acidic, they expose your teeth to a higher risk for decay. The more you eat, the worse the damage to teeth and the higher risk for tooth enamel erosion. And remember, it isn’t just desserts that contain sugars. From ketchup to spaghetti sauce, and barbecue sauces to cereals, you are probably consuming more sugar than you think. Even natural fruits and veggies contain a certain amount of sugar, so the fewer foods with added sugar you eat, the better.
We hate to provide another reason to avoid this popular food. However, hand in hand with sugar, tomato-based pasta sauces also contain a lot of acids. This means when you enjoy a nice plate of pasta, you are exposing your teeth to two things that create the perfect storm for tooth enamel erosion. And let’s not forget the carbs in the pasta itself. The carbs feed bacteria that lead to cavity-causing damage to teeth.
Sugar and acid are the main culprits when it comes to dental health and damage to teeth. When you make healthy choices, you contribute to a healthy mouth that is able to neutralize acids, stimulate saliva, and even encourage tooth enamel repair. Choose healthy snacks for you and your family like nuts, cheeses, less acidic fruits, and fresh crunchy vegetables, and you’ll enjoy lifelong dental health.