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Did You Know Certain Foods Hurt Your Teeth?

Preventing bad dental health is best for your smile. Fillings, crowns, and professional whitening can make your teeth stronger and brighter, but it is better and less expensive to avoid cavities and tooth stains in the first place, by brushing, flossing, and also eating right. The food we eat can have a big impact on our teeth, and here are some of the foods that can really affect them:

1. Citrus fruits and juices – A great source of vitamins and nutrients, are good for you but not when it comes to your teeth. Grapefruit and lemon juice are especially acidic and can erode tooth enamel over time. Orange juice causes the least damage.

2. Candy -The stickier the candy, the worse it is for your teeth. Extra-chewy candies stick to and between teeth for a long time, allowing the bacteria in our mouths to access the deposited sugar which makes acid, and dissolves the protective layer of tooth enamel causing cavities.
Hard candies do not cling to your teeth as much as chewy candy, but unlike, chocolate-based sweets, which are chewed quickly and wash away easily, hard candy dissolves slowly and saturates your mouth for a longer period of time, giving bacteria the chance to produce harmful acid. Many varieties of hard candy are also flavored with citrus acid, causing even more damage. Ever hear the term “jawbreaker”? The name perfectly describes another problem with hard candy that can chip and crack your teeth when bitten into.

3. Pickles – Acid (typically provided by vinegar) is essential to the pickling process and gives pickles their sour, salty taste. It is also what makes them a hazard to tooth enamel. Studies proved that eating pickles more than once a day increases the odds of dental wear by about 85% but snacking on them every once in a while is not likely to have a major affect on your teeth.

4. Soda – It is proven that drinking too many sugary sodas can breed cavities. The acids found in carbonated soft drinks harm teeth even more than the sugar. Even sugar-free diet sodas, which contain citric and phosphoric acid, can erode tooth enamel if consumed in large doses.
If giving up soda is not an option, drink it during a meal, rather than consuming it throughout the day. The food helps neutralize the acid, and the time of exposure to the acid is shorter. The same is true for sports and energy drinks.

5. Wine – Basically anything that will stain material will also stain your teeth. Red and white wines both can stain your teeth, especially red, which contains substances known as chromogens that produce discoloring pigments. Also red wine contains tannins that dry out the mouth and make teeth sticky, worsening stains. Both reds and whites also contain erosive acid, which allow stains from other foods or drinks to penetrate more deeply.

6. Crackers – The refined carbohydrates found in many types of crackers convert to sugar in the mouth rapidly when chewed, providing fuel for cavity-forming bacteria. Chewed crackers also become mushy and turn into a pasty substance that builds up in your molars and lodges between teeth.

7. Coffee – Ever notice those stubborn brown stains that accumulate on the inside of your coffee mug? That should give you some idea of how coffee drinking can stain your teeth over time. Studies have proven coffee-stained teeth are more resistant to tooth brushing and more likely to become discolored again following a whitening treatment.

8. Tea – Is often perceived as less harmful to teeth staining than coffee but some black tea may stain your teeth worse than coffee. Like red wine, black teas tend to have high tannin content, causing more staining. Unfortunately even herbal tea tends to erode dental enamel substantially more than black tea.

When consuming any food or drink, you can minimize the damage immediately by chewing sugar free gum after your meal. The gum (especially non-citrus flavored varieties) helps clean teeth by stimulating the production of saliva, which washes away acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth, and bathes the teeth in bone-strengthening calcium and phosphate. Many types of sugarless gum are sweetened with xylitol, an alcohol that reduces bacteria.

Another immediate tooth protection measure is to rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking. Water helps wash sugars and acid off teeth. It also contains fluoride that protects against tooth erosion.

The bottom line is that all these foods and drinks are harmful to your teeth when consumed in excess but taken in moderation the damage is minimal. The most important way to keep the harmful effects these substances at bay is to do a thorough job of regular brushing and flossing, and see your dentist for regular check ups and cleaning.

Dr. Finlay and Dr. Lim provide comprehensive family, cosmetic and restorative dental services for families in Annapolis, Arnold, Severna Park and surrounding communities.