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10 Foods You Didn’t Know Were Damaging Your Teeth

by | May 4, 2011

Photo by ♥serendipity

Today’s post is from guest blogger Robert Milton. He blogs for Jollyville Dental, an Austin dentist, who specializes in cosmetic dental procedures and Invisalign braces.

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

1. Apples

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.

4. Bread

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.

5. Popcorn

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.

7. Jelly

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.

8. Meat

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?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Aug 6, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

New evidence that the Atkins diet may be depriving people of nutrients? You bet! There were also a few interesting articles this week about food ideology and the antagonistic tone that frequently comes up in discussions about health, food safety and politics. And Francis Lam’s greatest tomato pasta on earth article totally blew my mind (in a good way).

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on the new Digg or StumbleUpon. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

  • Is Your Diet Depriving You of Nutrients? <<A new study suggests that Atkins dieters may be lacking in nutrients that are usually found in starchy foods. Dieters on the Zone diet (which is more balanced) fared the best, nutrient wise. (Low Carb Diets Blog)
  • Does high-fructose corn syrup cause cancer? <<Does it matter? Great analysis about how the facts are often beside the point when food and health get discussed in the media. (Salon)
  • “Can’t we all just get along” – It does not seem so. <<BS of the week. Along the same lines as the previous article, Bill Marler brings up the antagonistic tone that often comes up in public food dialogue, which is neither pleasant nor productive. And that sucks. Intelligent discussions don’t seem to be forthcoming these days. That’s why I’m so grateful for the wonderful conversations we have here at Summer Tomato. (Marler Blog)
  • A Dozen Eggs for $8? Michael Pollan Explains the Math of Buying Local <<Great interview with Michael Pollan about why Bay Area residents have embraced his eating philosophy. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Chili Peppers May Come With Blood Pressure Benefits <<Cartoons with red faces and exploding heads may give you the wrong idea. It appears chili peppers actually lower blood pressure in the long term. (ScienceDaily)
  • Is MSG Unhealthy? <<People sometimes ask why I don’t talk about MSG more on this blog. The truth is that the data doesn’t condemn it as much as people seem to believe. I don’t reject any food without strong science to back it up. Dr. Weil concurs. (Dr. Weil’s blog)
  • For blood pressure, can you be fit but fat? <<New research suggests body weight is a risk factor for high blood pressure independent of physical fitness levels. Best to keep both under control. (Medline)
  • Why did Whole Foods tart up my organic peanut butter? <<I agree with Tom Philpott on this one, but I still think it’s funny to get so riled up over “peanut butter.” (Grist)
  • Chioggia beets and farro salad <<Psssst. I shared one of my favorite recipe outlines over at my personal blog this week. It is super easy, and there are a zillion possible variations you can do. Beets not required. (daryapino)
  • The greatest five-minute tomato pasta on earth <<I almost choked to death when I read this, because Francis Lam had almost the exact same tomato experience I had. Then he turned it into a recipe. (Salon)

What inspired you this week?

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