If ‘you are what you eat’ is true, that’s particularly true for your teeth and gums.
When it comes to dental health, what people eat and drink – and how they consume it – has a powerful impact on their teeth. And on the list of good and bad foods, there may be some surprises.
A tooth’s worst enemy is acid – either directly contained in the food and drink, or produced by bacteria that thrive on sugar and convert it to acid.
Top 7 Worst Foods and Drinks for Teeth
1. Carbonated beverages & other drinks:
These drinks are the leading source of added sugar among kids and teens. The sugar content – as much as a king-sized candy bar – is bad for both body and teeth.
But teeth aren’t safe even for those who stick to diet drinks! Like their sugar-loaded versions, artificially sweetened soft drinks contain tooth-eroding acids, such as phosphoric and citric that can erode tooth enamel.
2. Not-so-healthy vitamins:
Even so-called health drinks are brimming with danger for your teeth. Sports drinks are notoriously acidic and full of sugar. Chewable vitamins – from multivitamins to large chewable vitamin C tablets – are especially bad, because they contain a concentrated acid that tends to cling to and between teeth.
3. Mouth-drying consumables:
These include alcohol and many medicines. A dry mouth is danger to teeth and gums. Psychiatric medications, are among the worst culprits in causing dry mouth. One must take extra care to keep the mouth hydrated, from deliberately washing with water or fluoridated rinses, to mouth hydration solutions.
4. Long-lasting and sticky sweets:
It’s not news that caramels and other gooey, sugary sweets are bad for teeth. It’s not just the sugar, though; it’s how long the teeth are exposed to sugar. So while those caramels stick and cling tenaciously to tooth surfaces and crevices, hard candies and lollipops are also very bad; they’re designed for a long, leisurely suck. This principle applies to any sweets, from candy to sweet drinks –sugar should stay in the mouth as briefly as possible.
5. Dried fruits:
While fresh grapes and plums are considered “good” foods, if they are dried, they go from hero to villain. Although often touted as healthy snacks, dried fruits like raisins, prunes and apricots, are similar to caramels. Their sugars are highly concentrated as the water is dried away, and their gummy texture can cling to teeth as much as gooey candy.
6. Starchy foods:
Many starchy foods, including white bread, potato chips and French fries and pasta, can easily become lodged between teeth and in crevices. While they may not necessarily taste sweet, the starches can begin converting to sugar almost immediately, not only by the bacteria, but also by the pre-digestive process that begins in the mouth through the enzymes in saliva.
7. High-acid foods and drinks:
Citrus fruits and drinks contain powerful citric acid – in fact, such juice is often used as a cleaning agent. While oranges, lemons and grapefruit can be a healthy part of the diet, they should be consumed quickly, preferably as part of a meal, and the teeth should be rinsed afterward. Sucking on citrus fruits should be avoided; this especially applies to the “home remedy” practice sucking lemon wedges for tooth-whitening.
Even though all these food are bad for your teeth that doesn’t mean you should stop eating naturally sugary or acidic foods. Your body—right down to your gums—still needs the nutrients found in those kind of foods.
What’s the solution?
Drinking water immediately after you eat can neutralize the acids and help wash them away. If you have a toothbrush handy, brush your teeth 20 minutes or so after your rinse-off.
Another smart move: Eat sugary or acidic foods as part of a meal, rather than as a snack, which will limit the amount of time your teeth are exposed to sugars and acids. This will also spur your salivary glands to produce extra saliva, which neutralizes acids and naturally protects your enamel
And in the end, it’s the amount of time your teeth are exposed to sweet and/or acidic foods that makes the most difference to your pearly whites.