Diet & Your Teeth
A healthy diet is important for a healthy body. Obviously, no one believes that junk food is good for them, but it’s important to remind ourselves why these kinds of foods should only be eaten occasionally. Eaten too frequently, junk food can have significant impacts on our overall health.
Foods that are high in sugar
Over-consumption of foods that are high in sugar, can put us at risk for obesity and diabetes. When looking specifically at the mouth, we see that food and drinks with large amounts of sugar can mix with the bacteria in the mouth, resulting in acid which damages teeth enamel and increases the chances of the development of gum disease. Gum disease has links to other conditions including heart disease and stroke, as is best avoided entirely.
Foods with high acidic content
Many foods, such as soft drinks or sports drinks, can damage tooth enamel due to their acidic content, in addition to the sugar. It may not be noticeable, but acid softens the enamel, making it susceptible to being worn away.
Foods that can damage teeth
Here are some foods that may pose harm to your teeth.
- Ice – For cooling beverages, ice is fine, but you should not bite it as this can damage the enamel.
- Hard Candies – Much like ice, it can be dangerous to bite down on hard candy. They pose an additional problem, however: candies that take a long time to dissolve in the mouth result in a long period of exposure to sugar and the acid produced with it mixes with the bacteria of the mouth.
- Gummy/Sticky/Chewy Foods – Foods like gummy bears and starbursts stay on your teeth much longer than ordinary foods. Due to these foods staying on your longer, you are more subject to tooth decay and other ailments to your oral health. It is important to clean your teeth after eating these types of food.
- Crunchy Foods – Foods that are crunchy are usually full of starch. Starch has a tendency to get stuck in your teeth for long periods of time.
- Fruits and Juices with Citric Acids – Repeated exposure to the acids from foods like fruit and fruit juices can erode your teeth over time.
- Alcoholic Beverages – In excess, alcohol causes dehydration which leads to dry mouth. The presence of saliva in the mouth is important, as it helps to prevent cavities. Anything that leads to dry mouth can increase your risk of tooth decay. Caffeinated beverages, like coffee, can have this effect as well.
- Drinks High in Sugar – Drinks like colas and energy drinks tend to be extremely high in sugar. These sugars are used by bacterias which damage your tooth enamel.
- Sports Drinks – While these are great to drink while exercising to keep you hydrated and full of electrolytes they can be dangerous to consume on a regular basis. Due to the high sugar concentration, they can be dangerous to your teeth and cause oral health problems like cavities and much more.
Foods that can stain teeth
The food you consume can have an impact on how your teeth look, in addition to your oral health. There are microscopic ridges on teeth where residue from certain foods can get caught, resulting in a stain or discoloration. Darkly pigmented beverages such as coffee, tea, and cola can have this effect, as well as fruit juices, popsicles, and even tomato sauce.
A good rule of thumb to consider is that if it would stain your carpet, it will likely stain your teeth as well.
Foods that are good for your oral health
Just as some foods are harmful to your teeth, there are also some that can be beneficial to eat. Here are some healthy food choices that can be good for your smile.
- Carrots – Carrots are a great snack that can appeal to both children and adults. These sweet and crunchy treats help to stimulate the saliva in your mouth which naturally helps to wash away plaque. They also are rich in Vitamin A, which is great for your eyesight. Carrots can help keep your vision strong and your enamel clear.
- Celery – Although rather tasteless, celery is extremely low in calories and can be dipped in peanut butter or ranch dressing for added flavor. It requires a lot of chewing which helps to increase saliva in your mouth, which assists in removing plaque. The fibrous strands in celery also help to naturally clean your teeth.
- Pineapple – Pineapple is delicious and full of vitamins and minerals. The enzyme bromelain, found in pineapple, can act as a natural stain-remover, helping to keep your teeth white.
- Cheese – An excellent source of calcium, and low in both sugar and acid, this makes cheese a great choice for snacking. Additionally, cheese contains a protein called casein, which is found in milk and is very useful in fortifying the surface of teeth.
- Yogurt – Just like cheese, yogurt is another excellent source of casein, calcium, and phosphates that help to remineralize teeth, just as fluoride does. This makes it another ideal candidate for fighting against cavities.
- Pears – Pears help to stimulate saliva reproduction, like all fresh fruit that are high in fiber. They are a great option as they have a larger neutralizing effect on acid than other types of fruit, such as apples, bananas, mandarins, and pineapples.
- Tap Water – While bottled water is popular, it’s a good idea to drink tap water. Tap water contains a tiny amount of fluoride which helps to prevent tooth decay when used regularly. The reason for this is simple; fluoride helps to remineralize teeth, reversing the harmful effects of acid, which works away enamel. Most bottled water doesn’t contain enough active fluoride to have any benefit.
- Sugar-Free Gum – Sugar-free gum can be helpful for keeping teeth cleaner, particularly brands that include xylitol. Unlike other artificial sweeteners, xylitol actually prevents the bacteria in plaque from metabolizing sugar, acting more like an “anti-sugar” than a sugar substitute. Regular sucrose can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, while xylitol fights against them. Gum even helps to remove bacteria and plaque from your teeth.