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Did you know you might be eating bad food for your teeth without even realizing it? You probably know that sugary treats are some of the worst foods for oral health. However, there are plenty of other damaging foods that can cause a variety of dental issues.
You don’t have to completely stop eating the foods that are bad for your teeth. Moderation is the answer, along with excellent oral hygiene habits. In this article, I’ll discuss the top 5 foods that do the most damage to your teeth.
1) The woe of white bread
For years, white bread has been under attack. Up to this point, refined carbohydrates have been the main point of contention. White bread is full of unhealthy carbs. As you chew it, the starch in white bread breaks down into sugar. That’s essentially why it’s a bad food for teeth.
Think of what happens to white bread as you consume your favorite sandwich or bite into a roll. It turns gummy and pasty as you chew. As a result, it has no trouble sticking in your teeth, getting gummed up in the spaces between them. There it sits until the next time you floss and brush. The sugar has plenty of time and opportunity to attack your enamel. To add insult to injury, the yeast can have a stinky effect on your breath too.
Any starchy carb can have the same impact, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating bread, rice, and potatoes (or potato chips) entirely. Swap the refined carbohydrates for whole-grain alternatives whenever and wherever you can. Whole wheat, multigrain, and sprouted bread, for instance, don’t typically have nearly the amount of added sugars.
2) The stigma of citrus fruits
Health professionals have told you to eat fresh fruit your entire life, right? Fruits have natural sugars, sure, but sugar is sugar when it comes to your teeth. Enjoy your apples and strawberries, but be aware of the danger. Citrus fruits pose a different problem. They’re among the worst foods for oral health because of their acidity.
The problem is that grapefruits, lemons, limes, mandarins, and oranges are all healthy, both as whole fruits and juices. They’re vitamin C powerhouses, and most of us don’t get enough vitamin C as it is. But they have a high acid content, and acid erodes the enamel on your teeth. A squeeze of lemon juice with your water makes it more palatable but could be attacking your enamel and irritating your mouth.
Don’t eliminate citrus from your diet just yet. Giving up those antioxidants and vitamins would take things a step too far. Try to eat fruit and drink fruit juice at mealtimes so that the acid isn’t left to sit on your teeth. After eating or drinking citrus, rinse out your mouth with some water as soon as you can.
3) Candy catastrophe
You already know that candy isn’t good for your teeth, but you may not realize how harmful some of it is. Chewy candy is the worst. The sugar in hard candy erodes enamel and causes cavities, but chewy treats, such as caramel, taffy, and gummy candies get into the crevices of your teeth and wreak havoc. Imagine the damage that caramel can do if it’s left alone between your molars. The bacteria in your mouth use the sugar to create acid, so your teeth receive a double-dose of punishment.
With certain candies, the problems are triple-fold. Sour candy is among these. Whether it’s sour taffy or a Sour Patch Kid, those types of candy are acidic, chewy, and sugar. They bring their own acid, along with the acid created by the combination of bacteria and sugar in your mouth. If candy is your vice, then eat it in moderation, always taking care to brush and floss afterward.
Hard candy that you suck on may seem safer since it may not appear to stick to your teeth, but that doesn’t necessarily make them better. Jolly Ranchers and lollipops take their sweet time to dissolve, leaving ample time for their sugars to interact with the bacteria in your mouth. All that acid coats your teeth until you brush it away, which spells trouble for your enamel. Not to mention, chomping down on a piece of hard candy can break, chip, or crack your teeth. Drinking water is a better way to avoid dry mouth, or you can chew sugarless gum instead.
4) A pickle pickle
Pickles are delicious, but they’re also acidic, so they’re not the best food for oral health. The pickling process depends on acid, so this tip goes for pickled eggs and sausages too.
Usually, vinegar provides the acid, and it can do a number on your teeth. Too many pickles contribute to the chances of experiencing wear and erosion. You don’t have to worry if you only occasionally enjoy pickles but try to avoid eating them every day. Just because they’re a low-calorie snack doesn’t mean that they’re doing your mouth any favors.
5) The ice myth
It’s a common misconception that chewing on ice is not only perfectly safe but also a healthy alternative to munching on chips or crackers. Neither of those things is true.
Bad food for teeth typically contains acid, sugar, or starch, so it’s understandable that people believe that chewing ice is no big deal. The problem is that biting down on hard cubes of frozen water doesn’t make your teeth feel great. The habit can weaken your teeth and damage the enamel, leaving them vulnerable to breaks, cracks, and chips.
Protect your teeth
Even if you’ve been eating bad food for your teeth for years, you still have a chance to get a handle on the damage. For starters, you can improve your eating habits. Consume more vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. Switch to water over soda, coffee, sports drinks, and wine. Floss and brush after eating any damaging substances, or if you feel food caught between your teeth. Most importantly, talk to your dentist to put together a care plan.
Author Bio: Dr. Ben Salar grew up in Los Angeles, California. He earned his degree in dentistry from Temple University School of Dentistry and went on to the NYU/Bellevue hospital program to receive his specialty certificate in pediatric dentistry. Dr. Salar has since supervised care and treatment at many pediatric dental practices across Nevada, including Toothfairy Dental of Reno, and Children’s Dentistry of Las Vegas.