You probably know that there are many foods that are bad for your teeth. However, the tricky part is trying to figure out which specific foods are bad and why. Is all sugar bad? What about the sugar in fruit? Can diet soda still damage your teeth even if it’s sugar-free? These are questions our hygienists answer all day long when working with our patients, so we decided to share a list of the five worst foods for your oral health and why. Read on to learn more! You might just be surprised at which foods are on the list — and which ones are not.
1. Soda, Diet Soda, Sports Drinks & Energy Drinks
The University of California at San Francisco writes that “liquid sugar, such as in sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks, is the leading single source of added sugar in the American diet, representing 36% of the added sugar we consume.” Coincidentally, these sugary beverages are also the leading source of sugar in adolescent diets. Soda is one of the worst culprits of the group because the sugar damages your enamel in partnership with acidity. Damaged tooth enamel leaves you vulnerable to cavities. Harboring bacteria in damaged teeth can also lead to gum disease and more serious issues.
You might be asking, what’s the deal with diet soda? Why is it bad if it does not contain sugar? The answer is that diet soda still has acidic properties that weaken tooth enamel, as well as artificial colors that stain teeth. Sports drinks also have similar issues. If you’re a sugary drink fan (and you’re in good company), moderation is key. Find healthier substitutes where you can and rinse your mouth with water when you’re done to wash away the sugar that feeds the bacteria.
2. Hidden Sugars
Many people try to improve their health by eating foods marked as fat-free or sugar-free. The challenge with many of these healthy foods is that they may be very unhealthy for your teeth due to hidden sugars. For example, a container of fat-free fruit yogurt sounds like a pretty healthy snack, right? However, if that yogurt is not sugar-free, you might be inviting a veritable sugar bomb into your mouth. Many healthy products will increase sugars when reducing fat in order to improve the taste.
In the United States, hidden sugars are particularly difficult to detect because so much of our food contains sugar. For example, two slices of white bread may contain as much as 3 grams of sugar–sugar you can’t even taste and would never suspect was in your food. The key to avoiding these sugars is to read product labels carefully to check for hidden sugars or sugars masquerading as carbs.
3. Hard or Sticky Foods
Hard or sticky foods can be incredibly bad for your teeth, especially those that contain sugar. Yes, once again, sugar is the real culprit here. Hard or sticky foods like lollipops or hard candies take all of the enamel damaging effects of liquid sugars like soda and then make them rest in your mouth. Even worse, they stick to your enamel. Hard candy works as a veritable buffet for harmful bacteria in your mouth.
Hard or sticky foods don’t just cause damage via cavities. They can also harm your teeth in other ways. For example, hard candies can crack your teeth, damage dental appliances and much more. Sticky foods can pull out fillings or damage your teeth as well. Like soda and other sugars, hard and sticky foods need to be eaten in moderation, if at all. In fact, most dentists will recommend you forego this particular food group and eat a nice piece of chocolate instead.
Say it ain’t so, but that glass of wine you enjoy with dinner, or the cocktails you sip while out and about could be causing damage to your teeth. In this case, it’s not just the sugar in the mimosa that gets you, it’s the dry mouth. Alcohol is known to dry out your mouth’s production of saliva. Saliva is your mouth’s natural defense against harboring bacteria because it helps your mouth continuously refresh.
Dry mouth can increase the buildup of plaque in your mouth and put you at risk of cavities. It can also cause injuries like sores and cuts that invite bacteria from your mouth into your bloodstream. Drinking in moderation is helpful. Avoiding sugary drinks is also useful because it will prevent the damaging combination of dry mouth + sugar. Sipping water with your beverages is also helpful because it washes away sugars, promotes saliva and keeps you hydrated.
5. Citrus Can Be Bad for Your Teeth
We’ve given sugar a lot of flak here, but citrus foods and beverages do their fair share of the labor when it comes to damaging teeth (including their sugar content). That daily glass of OJ or your breakfast grapefruit could be causing damage to your tooth enamel. Citrus fruits are acidic and contain vitamin C. Vitamin C is a demineralizing agent that can weaken your enamel and create a breeding ground for bacteria and cavities. The National Library of Medicine refers to this as “dental erosion.”
The challenge with citrus fruits is that they are good for you! Your body needs vitamin C. Oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes offer your body other valuable nutrients, as well. Limiting your intake of these foods can reduce their impact on your teeth. You can find alternatives for your vitamin C in supplements. However, take care not to overdo your intake, as it is a vitamin that can work from the inside out to damage your teeth. If you can’t live without that breakfast OJ, be sure to rinse your mouth with water after you are done drinking or consuming citrus, but do not brush your teeth. Your enamel is weak after consuming citrus and you could damage your teeth.
What Foods Are Good for Your Teeth?
It’s no coincidence that the best foods for your teeth are the same as the best foods for your body. Foods with high fiber, vitamins and minerals like fruits and vegetables are great for your teeth. Dr. Ilenne Noetzel offers a line of supplements to help our patients get these important nutrients on the go. Other healthy foods for your teeth include dairy products like cheese, milk and plain yogurt (low in sugar, of course). The University of Rochester Medical Center also includes sugar-free gum because it increases your saliva, which helps your mouth fight off bacteria and strengthens your teeth.
Would you like to learn more ways to create a healthy smile? Make an appointment for a check-up and cleaning. Our knowledgeable staff can give you great advice on foods to avoid, dietary supplements that can help your oral health and much more. Give us a call to schedule your appointment today!