Most of us realize that coffee, red wine, and candy are bad for our teeth – but that brushing twice a day and flossing will absolve us from our food or drink mishaps. But did you know that foods and drinks beyond the obvious can crack, stain, weaken, and generally damage your mouth? There are three categories of food and drinks that are bad for your oral hygiene: sugary food or drinks that cause cavities, hard substances that weaken enamel, and liquids that dry out your mouth. If you want a healthier, whiter, and stronger smile, cut out or reduce the following foods and drinks:
- Ice – Even though ice doesn’t contain any sugar or cavity causing agents, chewing on ice can damage enamel, loosen crowns, and chip teeth.
- Alcohol – Alcohol reduces saliva flow and production, which can lead to tooth decay or gum disease. Saliva flow is important to washing away food bacteria and to protect soft tissue from infection.
- Certain fruits – Lime, lemons, oranges and grapefruit are loaded with citric acid. Acidic foods are the number-one cause of enamel erosion and tooth decay. Dentists recommend drinking or eating these fruits or juices in one sitting and avoiding other acidic foods or drinks for several hours.
- Soda, Coffee, and Red Wine – Dark liquids with acids stain our teeth, which can wear down the surface of our teeth. Soda is particularly bad for our teeth and our health because of the combination of sugar, acids, and carbonation.
- Bread, Potato Chips, Pretzels – As you chew bread, your saliva turns it into a sugary soft paste that gets stuck in the teeth, allowing bacteria to grow. Potato chips and pretzels can also get lodged into the grooves of the teeth.
- Beets, Berries, Kale – Foods rich in color are also rich in stain agents. A good rule of thumb is if it would stain your white t-shirt, it will stain your teeth.
- Candy – Sticky, chewy, sour, and hard candy are all bad for the teeth. The amount of sugar is very high and combined with their stickiness or chewiness, can get stuck in crevices of the teeth, lingering in the mouth. Sour candy is especially dangerous because it is highly acidic. Hard candy can crack or damage the teeth.
- Popcorn – Popcorn is infamous for getting stuck in the teeth. It also promotes bacteria and kernels can damage the enamel or chip your teeth.
Perhaps surprisingly, there are some foods and drinks that are actually good for your teeth. These include fiber-rich fruits and veggies, cheese, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products (calcium!), green or black tea, and sugarless gum. These products help get saliva flowing and prevent bacteria or remove food particles from your mouth.
It’s difficult to swear off all foods and drinks that are bad for our teeth. Keeping teeth healthy is about limiting exposure and damage. Dentists recommend eating acidic or sugary foods as part of a meal rather than on their own and brushing after each meal. If you can’t brush, drink water to wash away sugar, dislodge food, or dilute staining residue. You should limit snacking on foods bad for your teeth and use fluoride toothpaste to repair enamel. Straws can work wonders while drinking coffee, soda, or even wine.