If you’re like most people, you probably do your best to maintain healthy teeth and gums by brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist. But did you know that what you eat and drink every day can affect your dental health as well? Learn the foods and drinks that may cause the greatest teeth problems, as well as the dental care tips that can minimize the damage.
Sugar-laden foods that cling to your teeth can wreak havoc because they lead to tooth decay. Try to avoid sticky, sweet, and chewy foods, such as candy, cakes, and muffins. Whenever possible, choose fresh, naturally sweet foods instead. If you need candy to satisfy your sweet tooth, a piece of sugarless gum or candy is a healthier option.
If you reach for crackers or chips at snack time, rethink how you munch. Bacteria in the mouth use simple carbohydrates for food, which can up your risk for tooth decay. Lower your risk by pairing your carbohydrates with other healthy foods to help neutralize the acid. For example, add cheese to your crackers for a healthier mouth.
Carbonated drinks such as soda are often high in sugar, which can coat the teeth and lead to tooth decay. But even diet sodas aren’t dental friendly; they contain their own kind of acid, which can also weaken teeth enamel. Cavities can form when enamel breaks down. If you do drink soda, try to limit your exposure. Have a soda with a meal, but don’t sip it throughout the day.
In addition to sugar-laden soda, watch out for other sweetened beverages, such as lemonade, energy drinks, sports drinks, or sweetened tea or coffee. Sipping these drinks slowly gives your teeth a bath in sugar, which promotes tooth decay. Whenever possible, opt for water—the most dental-friendly beverage available.
Not all foods that are good for your body are also good for your teeth. Some nutritious foods can erode tooth enamel, too. These include tomatoes and citrus fruits, such as oranges. Don’t avoid these foods completely, but eat them with a meal to reduce their impact on your teeth.
Although dried fruit can be part of a healthy diet, the sticky consistency can cause them to adhere to teeth. Plus, the plaque acid these foods create can harm your teeth long after you’ve finished eating. Exchange dried fruit for fresh whenever possible. Snack on grapes instead of raisins to avoid unhealthy teeth.
Not all foods are bad for your teeth. In fact, eating the right foods can boost your dental health. Many fruits and vegetables actually help clean your teeth. Plus, they stimulate saliva production, which washes food particles from the teeth and prevents tooth decay. Foods with calcium, such as cheese, spinach, and almonds, as well as phosphorus-rich protein, such as meat and fish, can protect and rebuild tooth enamel.
“How does what I eat affect my oral health?” Academy of General Dentistry. www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=N&iid=315&aid=1274.
“Nutrition.” American Dental Association. www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/.
“Sip all day, get decay.” Wisconsin Dental Association. www.wda.org/your-oral-health/sip-all-day/.
“What foods cause tooth decay in children?” American Dental Association. www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=N&iid=316&aid=1282.
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.