03 May 2023
Having a healthy environment in your mouth takes work. Visiting your dentist every six months for routine checkups and cleaning, along with brushing and regular flossing every morning and night, is something we all must do if we want to maintain healthy dental hygiene. However, for many people, brushing and flossing daily and keeping dental checkups up to date isn't enough. Many individuals still experience plaque buildup on their teeth, which continuously leads to cavities, complications with biting and chewing, and even abscessed teeth. If left untreated for long, these complications can quickly become serious problems that often lead to root canals or tooth extractions.
These potential complications leave many people who worry about their dental health wondering what else they can possibly do to protect their teeth and keep them healthy and strong for as long as possible. The answer to that is to watch what you eat. Certain foods are detrimental to tooth enamel, can cause plaque and bacteria to grow in the mouth and gums, and can also cause cavities. Below are five categories of food you should avoid if you want to prolong the life of your teeth and keep your dental hygiene at optimal levels.
Foods High in Sugar
It is widely known that sugars are bad for our teeth due to how they react with plaque. Plaque is essentially bacteria in the form of a yellowish sticky film that coats teeth. It is a big contributor to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. When plaque hardens, it turns into tartar, which can lead to gingivitis, an early form of gum disease. Brushing and flossing on a regular and daily basis is important to remove plaque from your teeth and avoid tartar buildup. Plus, having less plaque also lessens the impact of eating sugary foods. When you add sugar to plaque, it becomes an even worse problem. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that break down tooth enamel. Once tooth enamel begins to break down, cavities start to form, which is what you want to avoid.
The sugars in carbonated sodas enable plaque to produce even more acid that attacks teeth and enamel. The acid produced will also lower saliva production, which leads to a dry mouth. Furthermore, dark sodas will stain teeth over time, but you shouldn’t brush your teeth immediately after drinking a soda because it can actually accelerate enamel and tooth decay.
One of the primary sources of sugar that damages our teeth is candy. Avoiding candy, in general, is a good rule of thumb; however, sour candies should be especially avoided as they contain even stronger acids that are rough on the tooth enamel. Hard candy can break a weakened tooth or a healthy tooth, all the same, and chewy candy tends to stick to teeth longer, so it’s even more likely to cause decay. Some dentists even recommend avoiding dried fruits because they are chewy enough to cling to teeth and hide in crevices to leave behind sugar deposits. If you crave sweets and must consume a sugary treat, go for chocolate because it chews up easily and washes away quickly.
Foods High in Starch
White breads aren’t just bad for your diet. They can also deteriorate your teeth. When we chew white bread, our saliva breaks down the starches and turns them into sugar. When it sticks between your teeth, it can cause cavities due to acids released by plaque, as explained above. Whole wheat bread is a better option because it has fewer added sugars that don't break down as easily as the sugars in white bread do.
Another starch-laden food that can be damaging to teeth is potato chips. Because we tend to eat a lot at once, there’s more sugar lingering on teeth and in heavy amounts.
While citrus fruits like grapefruits, oranges, and lemons, in both fruit and juice forms, are delicious and a good source of Vitamin C, they have a high acid content which erodes enamel and makes teeth more vulnerable to decay. Even adding lemon to your tea will increase the acidic levels of your drink. The acid in citrus fruits can also cause painful mouth sores. If you must, enjoy citrus foods in moderation and with meals, and rinse thoroughly after.
While alcohol is, in fact, a beverage, it is just as damaging as any food when it comes to its effects on teeth. First, it dries your mouth by reducing saliva, which we need to maintain a healthy, teeth-friendly environment in our mouth. Saliva is very important to dental health and dental hygiene because it keeps food from sticking to teeth and washes away particles of food left behind after we chew and swallow. Saliva even plays a role in repairing early tooth decay, oral infections, and gum disease. It is also why the mouth is the fastest healing organ in the body. Keeping the mouth hydrated by drinking plenty of water is also important. A hydrated mouth is a healthy mouth. Oral hydration and fluoride rinses are also helpful in maintaining an abundant supply of saliva.
Even though ice is made of water, it is not a good idea to chew it or crunch it with your teeth. Chewing hard substances, like the hard candy mentioned previously, can damage enamel and make your teeth vulnerable to dental emergencies, such as a cracked, chipped, or broken tooth. It’s also especially risky to chew ice or other hard foods if you have crowns because they can easily become loose or fall out if hit in just the right spot by a hard substance being stricken repeatedly between your jaws.
Use ice to keep your beverages cold, but don’t eat the ice itself. If you need to break the habit, try chilling your drinks before consuming them, so you don’t need to put ice in them and aren’t tempted to chew on the ice.
If you are experiencing a dental emergency, call Emergency Dental Service 24 hours a day at 1-888-350-1340 to speak with our caring and knowledgeable staff to schedule an emergency appointment with a local dentist.