If you want to know how you can start to improve your oral health on your own (aside from performing your regular dental hygiene routine!), take a look at your diet. More often than not, we’re subconsciously indulging in many different foods that can damage our teeth.
Here’s a look at some of the most common edible culprits and how they impact and affect our teeth:
Popcorn, Chips & Crackers
If you had to think of one food that gets stuck in your teeth, you’d likely name popcorn. Unpopped kernels can cause problems similar to hard candy and ice if you accidentally bite down on one. Chips and crackers are made of starches. While we’re chewing and enjoying these tasty snacks, they break down into sugars. Like popcorn, chips can also get stuck in between your teeth, while salty crackers can form a paste in the crevices of your molars.
This should be a fairly obvious harmful food. That being said, we all enjoy a good sweet treat once in a while, which is absolutely fine. If you enjoy several pieces of chewy candy on a regular basis, that’s where you can get into trouble. Chewy candy can get stuck between your teeth and can be difficult to remove; this makes it a recipe for tooth decay and dental cavities. Additionally, because of this, detrimental oral bacteria can feed on the lodged candy pieces longer and emit acidic byproducts into your mouth. This act is what wears away tooth enamel.
While similar, hard candy actually poses different types of damage than chewy candy. Hard candy can take a long time to dissolve; it also releases sugars into your mouth the entire time you’re enjoying it. Another point to consider is that biting down at the wrong angle or while the piece of candy is still too hard can lead to a dental emergency like a chip, break, or crack in your tooth.
The irony here? When in its liquid form, water is one of the best things for your oral health. However, its frozen form presents difficulties. If you have a habit of chewing ice regularly, then you can increase the wear and tear on your teeth. It can also pose the same problem as hard candy, if you bite down at the wrong angle or before it has dissolved too much. Additionally, the coldness of ice can trigger tooth sensitivity. This leads into our next damaging beverage…
Sports drinks, i.e. liquids like Gatorade & Powerade that are high in electrolytes, are often viewed as a healthier alternative to beverages like soda, sugar-free drinks and energy drinks. But the reality is, if you take the time to read the label, you’ll find that they typically have as much sugar as soda and energy drinks, and sometimes even more. Additionally, many sports drinks contain citric acid to help flavor them, which can also increase the likelihood of tooth decay.
Coffee, Tea & Alcohol
Many of us live for that morning or evening beverage to help us kickoff or unwind our days; but we have to be careful. Beverages like coffee & tea can be okay in moderation and when taken plain, but many people drink them multiple times per day and load their mugs with sugars and syrups. We need to be particularly mindful of discoloration in our teeth. Alcohol typically causes our mouths to dry out, which reduces the amount of saliva. Saliva is critical for rinsing bacteria & particles away. So, over time, consuming alcohol can lead to issues like gum disease and tooth decay. Like, coffee or tea, alcohol like red wine can also lead to tooth discoloration.
Citrus & Dried Fruits
While citrus fruit is good for you, it’s best consumed in moderation as it introduces citric acid to your teeth. Try to refrain from brushing your teeth right after consuming any type of acidic food or beverage, as brushing can exacerbate its effects. Make sure to rinse your mouth with plain water and to wait at least 30 minutes until you brush. With regard to dried fruit, the drying process means more sugar and may result in the fruit losing some of its nutritional value. Many dried fruits can also be chewy or sticky like certain candies. The bottom line, when consuming fruits, it’s best to stick to the fresh kind!