Many foods are bad for your teeth. Some items promote the buildup of plaque, while others threaten tooth decay via high acidic content. On the other hand, some foods are beneficial to your oral health, helping to repair tooth enamel and wash away dangerous bacteria. But since we can’t always eat the healthiest foods, there are a couple of oral care tricks that will keep your teeth in good condition – no matter what you have for lunch.
What foods are bad for my teeth?
Foods and beverages can damage your teeth in many ways. While some foods put your teeth at risk for breaking or chipping, others can encourage plaque and gum disease. Here are the drinks and snacks you should try to avoid for a happier smile:
- Hard Candies – Lollipops and hard candies not only put your teeth at risk for chipping or breaking, but they also subject your teeth to constant sugar exposure. Those sugars feed the harmful bacteria that live on your teeth, creating acids that can eventually destroy tooth enamel and cause cavities.
- Sticky Candies – Sticky candies like caramels and taffies are fun to eat, but they aren’t so kind to your oral health. Because of the stickiness, sugars easily get stuck in holes and crevices in your teeth, fueling those harmful bacteria.
- Dried Fruit – Dried fruits like raisins and dates may be more nutritional than the sticky candies mentioned above, but they can be just as bad for your teeth. As a general rule, anything that sticks to your teeth can be detrimental to their well-being.
- Starchy Snacks – Chips, crackers, and other starchy snacks can easily get stuck in between your teeth, where they sit and ferment, generating those dangerous acids that can dissolve tooth enamel.
- Citrus and Acidic Food – Lemons, limes, and other citruses have very high acid levels. When you consume acidic drinks like orange or grapefruit juice, or even foods that have been pickled, the acids will eventually break down enamel.
- Sugary Drinks – Sugary sports drinks and sodas bathe your teeth in destructive sugar. The more you feed those bad bacteria in your mouth, the more acid they will produce, and the more vulnerable your teeth will be to plaque and tooth decay.
- Caffeinated Drinks – Did you know that caffeine dries out your mouth? Coffees, teas, and sodas can cause your saliva production to decrease, which can lead to many oral health issues.
- Alcohol – Alcoholic drinks like wine and beer also dehydrate your body and dry out your mouth. Prolonged alcohol use can reduce saliva so much over time that it can lead to significant oral problems like gum disease. Along with being acidic, wines in particular also make your teeth susceptible to staining by weakening enamel.
- Ice – Ice may seem innocent, but it is one of the leading causes of broken and chipped teeth.
What foods are good for my teeth?
Many foods are beneficial to your teeth – and to your body as a whole. They provide the nutrients and minerals that your teeth need to repair themselves naturally. To keep your smile big and bright, try these foods:
- Vitamin-rich, Lean Proteins – Meats, eggs, and nuts are loaded with vitamins and phosphorous that can help rebuild enamel. Aim for proteins that are also high in vitamin D – like egg yolks and fish. Vitamin D bolsters your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Diary – It may seem obvious that dairy products are good for your teeth because they contain calcium. The key ingredient you need in calcium, though, is the mineral hydroxyapatite. It strengthens enamel and is easily absorbed by your body.
While milk and yogurt are excellent calcium sources, cheese serves your teeth in a couple of different ways. First off, cheese contains a protein called casein that repairs damaged enamel. Secondly, studies have shown that cheese actually decreases the pH level – or acidity – of your mouth. With fewer acids, there is less enamel destruction and tooth decay.
- Crunchy Veggies and Fruits – The best fruits and vegetables for your mouth are ones that are crunchy and high in water content. Apples, celery, cucumbers, and carrots are exceptional natural cleaners for your teeth. They scrub while you chew and they stimulate saliva production to wash off harmful acids and bacteria.
Bell peppers, broccoli, and kale are great because they also contain high amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C reduces inflammation by supporting healthy blood vessels, making for healthier gums and better overall oral health.
- Fiber-rich Fare – Leafy vegetables, like spinach and beans, also serve as natural cleansers by helping you produce saliva while you chew.
- Water – Water is essential to great oral care. It helps keep your mouth moist, inhibiting the spread of harmful bacteria and acids.
- Sugarless Gum – When all else fails, try chewing some sugarless gum that has been approved by the American Dental Association to help scrub your teeth and moisten your mouth.
How do I care for my teeth after a meal?
If you brush your teeth after every meal, you will be able to remove a majority of the harmful sugars before they get a chance to feed bacteria in your mouth. If you can’t brush that often, though, at least brush every morning and night. Flossing regularly also helps get rid of bad particles – like starches – that get trapped in between teeth.
Brushing after every meal isn’t always the best for your teeth, however. If you have eaten something acidic, studies show that brushing immediately after a meal can help weaken enamel. It is best to either brush your teeth before the meal or wait until at least 30 minutes after. Consuming a glass of water right after you eat will help wash away some of the acids, making it a good alternative if you can’t wait 30 minutes to brush.
When it comes to food, usually the ones that are the best for your body are also the best for your teeth. Avoid sugary, starchy snacks to support your dental health. And just like all things, moderation is key. So, go ahead and enjoy a lollipop – or some wine – as long as you maintain good oral hygiene practices and keep proper brushing times in mind.