6 Foods That Are Bad for Your Teeth
As the old saying goes, the eyes are the windows to the soul. Similarly, a person’s teeth can draw an accurate picture of their overall health. The condition and health of your teeth are closely correlated to the way they’re maintained, and it takes diligence and care to keep them in great shape.
Brushing, tongue scraping, flossing, and dental cleanings are great, but they’re not enough to maintain a healthy smile. According to dentists, what a person does to keep their teeth healthy is every bit as important as what they don’t do. Certain foods and drinks can cause severe damage to your teeth, including decay, stress-related wear, bacterial imbalances, and inflammation. In this guide, you’ll learn which foods your dentist would like you to consume less often.
All Things Sugary, Sticky, and Sweet
Though this category may seem like an obvious choice, it’s surprising how many people disregard their dentists’ advice. The riskiest thing we can do for our oral health is to consume sugar. The bacteria in our mouths break down the sweet stuff, leading to the decay or demineralization of tooth enamel. Gummy candies are, by far, the biggest offenders, with dried fruits coming in a very close second.
If you’re going to enjoy a sweet and sticky snack, be sure to brush your teeth thoroughly and drink a glass of water to wash away any remnants. While abstinence is the best solution, we understand that it’s not for everyone. As with other enjoyable things, moderation is key.
Dentists consider acidic drinks and foods one of the biggest threats to oral health. Anything that creates an acidic condition also brings about an imbalance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria in the mouth. When there are too many bad bacteria, it leads to the pain and inflammation of gingivitis or gum disease, among other problems.
While lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits may be tasty, they can be quite acidic. Citrus fruits contain many of the vitamins and minerals we need for optimal health, but they’re not always good for your teeth. It’s best to balance the consumption of citrus and other acidic foods with that of other, more alkalizing fruits and veggies.
This tip shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but many dentists suggest avoiding sodas. They’re sugary and acidic, which means they’re twice as bad for your oral health. The same applies to sports drinks and sparkling water beverages, with low-sugar varieties being slightly safer.
Coffee is somewhat acidic, but it’s also a diuretic, which dries out the mouth and negates the protective properties of saliva production. To increase these benefits, consider chewing sugar-free gum. It activates the saliva glands, stimulating production and neutralizing the acidic, low-pH environment created by most foods and drinks.
With this category, it’s not about avoidance; it’s about changing the method of consumption. Dentists say that eating hard nuts will gradually wear teeth down, but there are ways to minimize the risk of damage. Consider softening pistachios and almonds in olive oil before enjoying them, especially if you have had veneers, crowns, or other dental work done.
Kernels and Seeds
Like nuts, seeds and kernels can cause serious dental damage if consumed improperly. Small seeds, such as caraway and sesame seeds, can get wedged into the spaces under your gums or between the teeth, creating painful abscesses and causing other problems. Popcorn kernels are equally problematic. While it’s not necessary to eliminate these foods completely, it’s good to wash them down with water and brush your teeth soon after eating.
Ice and Hard Candies
While some say that ice isn’t a real food, many people still try to eat it. Chewing on ice may feel good, but it can damage your teeth. For the same reason (and because of the high sugar content), hard candies should be avoided or consumed in moderation.
Sugary, sticky, and hard candies are the biggest problems, but starchy pretzels, chips, and crackers can be equally harmful. Most of the adverse effects are due to these foods’ sugar content, but they also create problems when they crumble and get stuck between the teeth. It puts a great deal of sugar into these areas, increasing the risk of tooth decay. Because non-citrus fruits and vegetables are good for oral and overall health, they’re a great replacement for other, more problematic snacks.
Why Your Teeth May be Sensitive to Certain Foods
While we typically hear about tooth sensitivities due to temperature fluctuations, sweet, crunchy, and starchy foods also play a role. Tooth sensitivity, no matter its cause, results from the degradation of enamel. Once the outermost enamel layer is damaged, the inner layers of the teeth are exposed. Sugary and starchy foods, hot and cold beverages, and other factors, if left unchecked, can cause severe tooth pain.
Preventing Oral Sensitivity
If you can’t imagine going without your favorite foods and drinks, there are a few ways to minimize discomfort and improve oral health. Because tooth sensitivity is caused by enamel damage, the safest bet is to take good care of your teeth. Here are a few tips to reduce tooth sensitivity and pain.
- Use a soft toothbrush. Find a brush that’s strong enough to remove plaque and debris but soft enough to minimize sensitivity.
- Choose the right toothpaste. Products containing stannous fluoride protect against enamel degradation and tooth sensitivity, allowing you to enjoy more of the foods you like.
- Brush gently. Vigorous brushing causes serious damage to tooth enamel and may increase your level of sensitivity to certain foods.
While brushing is one of the best ways to improve oral health, it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. With these tips, you can care for your teeth while enjoying a balanced diet that’s full of great foods.
Sugary, acidic, starchy, hard, hot, and cold foods and beverages all taste great, but they can negatively affect our oral health. By enjoying these foods in moderation and by practicing good oral hygiene, you can protect your teeth and enjoy better overall health.