Last week we listed the 5 best foods for your teeth; things like cheese, celery, green tea that help to clean and even protect your teeth and gums. This week, however we are focussing on the foods and drinks that have the opposite effect; those that break down your protective enamel coating and promote cavities. Here are a few items you should make a good attempt to cut down in your diet. Or better yet, steer clear of all together.
Candy is an obvious one as it is made up entirely of sugar, and sugar can equal cavities. It’s not just the sugar, though; it’s how long the teeth are exposed to sugar, which is why the sticky varieties of candy (caramels, gummy bears, etc.) are the worst of the bunch. This principle applies to any sweets, from candy to sweet drinks –sugar should stay in the mouth as briefly as possible.
Lemons are double trouble. Not only does the sugar in them turn acidic in your mouth, but they’re acidic to begin with. If you suck and/or chew on them for longer periods of time, you are demineralizing your enamel right away. They should be consumed quickly, preferably as part of a meal, and the teeth should be rinsed afterward.
Sugar isn’t the biggest culprit when it comes to a fizzy drink’s impact on teeth. These beverages (diet or not) strip minerals from tooth enamel because of their high acid content. It’s also the flavour of the fizz that matters. All soft drinks have an impact, but it has been shown that clear, citrus-flavoured beverages dissolve enamel two to five times more than colas.
Even healthy carbs can damage your teeth. The pre-digestive enzymes in your saliva metabolize the carbohydrates into sugars and produce teeth-eroding acid. Plus, these foods can easily get lodged between your teeth, damaging them from lunchtime all the way until dinner.
Coffee, tea, and red wine are the usual suspects, but did you know that dark, fleshy fruits like blueberries and cherries can leave their mark on your teeth as well? Not only do they contain high levels of sugar, thus increasing the possibility for cavities, but they are also very apt to stain. Made up of thousands of tiny rods, your tooth’s enamel is porous and can easily absorb coloring from the foods you eat.
The American Dental Association offers these tips to help reduce tooth-decay risk from the foods you eat:
- Consume sugary foods with meals. Your mouth produces more saliva during meals, and this helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
- Limit between-meal snacks. If you crave a snack, choose something nutritious. Consider chewing sugarless gum afterward to increase saliva flow and wash out food and acid.
- Drink more water. Fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay. If you choose bottled water, check the label for the fluoride content.
- Brush your teeth twice and floss once a day.