10 Foods You Didn’t Know Were Damaging Your Teeth
by Robert Milton
Most people know candy and other sugary foods wreak havoc on their teeth, but how about fruit?
You’ve probably heard brushing and flossing twice a day is the best way to keep your teeth healthy. But some foods cause enough damage to warrant extra cleanings.
How does food damage your teeth?
There are two main elements of food that tarnish your pearly whites: sugar and acid.
Sugars, especially sucrose (table sugar), feed the millions of bacteria already in your mouth. Bacteria feast on your plaque buildup and produce lactic acid, which erodes your tooth enamel. Sucrose is the worst form of sugar because it adheres to teeth very strongly making it (and the bacteria) difficult to remove even when brushing.
Acids naturally occur in many foods, including fruit. In these cases, bacteria aren’t necessary to produce acid and cause tooth decay. Instead, acidic foods eat away at your enamel and break down your teeth directly.
Generally you can wash away natural acids by drinking water. Ironically, brushing soon after consuming acidic foods or beverages can actually cause more damage. Because teeth are porous, brushing softens them and makes them more susceptible to acid. After eating acidic foods, you should wait at least an hour before brushing.
What foods should you worry about?
In addition to the sugar and acid in foods, you should consider the length of time food is left on your teeth. The more time bacteria have to produce acids, the more damage will be done.
While many of these foods are healthy for other reasons, you should try and care for your teeth soon after eating them. Drinking water with your meal, chewing sugar-less gum, rinsing with an alcohol-free fluoride mouthwash or flossing and brushing with toothpaste reduces the risk of damage.
Look out for:
- Sugar and/or acid content
- Stickiness (how much food remains on teeth)
- How long the food is in your mouth
10 Foods That Damage Your Teeth
Apples are high in acid, are surprisingly hard on your enamel. While a daily apple may keep the doctor away, the acid might keep your dentist on speed dial. Eating apples is fine, just be sure to rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash shortly after.
2. Hard candies
Though you probably know the sugar in candy is a problem, hard candies are especially harmful because we tend to hold them in our mouths longer. Also be aware that cough drops are often made with sugar, so opt for the sugar-free brand if available.
3. Pickled vegetables
Pickles are made with vinegar, which is acidic, and often sugar as well. While the vegetables are healthy, the brine is can damage your teeth. Drinking water with your meal helps wash away acids and sugar, but remember to brush an hour later.
Many breads contain sugar—especially processed white breads. It’s best to check the labels for any added sweeteners that will breed mouth bacteria. Bread is also sticky and gets between and behind your teeth.
Popcorn is notorious for getting stuck in your teeth, and the areas between your teeth will cultivate more bacteria for that reason. It’s okay to treat yourself to a bag of popcorn as long as you rinse with water and remember to floss and brush after.
6. Peanut butter
Sticky and often made with sugar, peanut butter not only feeds bacteria but makes it easier for them to adhere to teeth. Look for natural peanut butters with no added sugars to lessen the problem.
Along with peanut butter, jelly or jam is loaded with sugar and quite sticky. Even the all-fruit brands contain natural sugars and encourage plaque and bacteria if not washed away soon.
Meat tends to get stuck between your teeth, and some meat products contain sugar as a preservative. While the amount may not be very high, any food that sits between your teeth can promote tooth decay. Try chewing sugar-less gum after eating if you can’t brush right away.
9. Diet soda
Just because it doesn’t have sugar doesn’t mean your teeth are safe. The acidity of diet sodas is still extremely high, making it one of the worst products for your teeth.
10. Salad dressing
More of a condiment than a food, salad dressings use vinegar and sugar for flavor. Salads should be a staple in anyone’s diet, but be careful of the dressings that can harm your smile.
What are your tips to reduce tooth decay?