How to Tell If Your Diet is Damaging Your Teeth
Written by Dr. DeAngelis
What types of foods do you eat on a regular basis? Your meal and snack choices don’t just affect your waistline; they impact your dental health as well.
Every food you eat and beverage you drink must come in contact with your teeth before being swallowed. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is loaded with sugary, processed foods and highly acidic drinks that wreak havoc on your oral health.
If your diet is damaging your teeth, it’s time to make a few simple yet powerful changes to promote a stronger, healthier, more attractive smile.
The Worst Foods For Your Teeth
Not all foods are great for your dental health, but a few are worse than most. Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer for these culprits- and then throw them straight in the trash.
Hard candy is popular, but it’s not nearly as harmless as it seems. Lollipops and other hard candies are loaded with sugar. As you suck on hard candy, your teeth are continually coated in layers of sticky, sugary bacteria. If you don’t rinse your mouth with water or brush immediately after eating hard candy, all of that plaque begins eating away at your teeth to cause cavities and decay.
Soda and Juice
Soda is the single most harmful beverage for your teeth. With every sip of soda, your teeth become bathed in harsh acids that erode the protective cover of enamel on your teeth. It takes at least 20 minutes for saliva to wash that acid and sugar away, so if you tend to drink soda throughout the day, your mouth is under constant attack.
But that’s not all. Soda presents a triple threat. In addition to attacking your tooth enamel, soda also stains your teeth and dries out your mouth. A dry mouth lacks the saliva needed to dilute sugar and acid, making you even more vulnerable to cavities, decay, and gum disease.
Despite clever marketing labels and promises of vitamins and minerals, juice isn’t much better than soda. It’s still loaded with sugar and acid and can’t hydrate your mouth or body as efficiently as water. Try eating fresh fruit to get your daily dose of antioxidants and vitamins instead.
Processed and Refined Carbs
Processed and refined foods are more accessible than ever before. From potato chips and white bread to fast food meals and frozen TV dinners, refined starches definitely aren’t your mouth’s best friend. Starches get trapped easily in the tiny cracks and crevices of your teeth, where they join forces with sugar, acid, and bacteria to form plaque and tartar.
Brushing and flossing twice a day helps combat the threat of processed and refined starches, but damage can still occur between brushings. It’s better to cut refined carbs from your meals and snacks to prevent dental issues from developing.
You already know that sticky foods, well, stick to your teeth. But you may not realize that the list of sticky foods is longer than the obvious villains like salt water taffy, tootsie rolls, and syrup. Even “healthier” options like honey and dried fruit pose a risk to your oral health.
Sticky foods cling to all surfaces and crevices of your teeth, leaving plenty of sugar and acid in their wake. Even diligent brushing and flossing can’t always remove all traces of sticky foods. This makes it possible for plaque and tartar to accumulate into a painful cavity or the early stages of gum disease.
4 Signs Your Diet is Damaging Your Teeth
If you like to munch on the foods listed above, your teeth have likely sustained damage, even if you can’t see it yet. Pay close attention to the following signs that your diet is damaging your teeth.
Bombarding your mouth with potent sugars and acids all day, every day compromises your mouth’s ability to produce saliva. This leads to dry mouth, a frustrating issue that puts your smile in grave danger. Without saliva, your mouth can’t neutralize acids, wash away food debris and bacteria, or digest food. Decay becomes inevitable unless you make changes to your eating habits and oral care routine.
Tooth Discoloration and Staining
Dark sodas and juices easily stain the white enamel on your teeth, leaving your smile looking dull and yellow. Foods loaded with sugar and acid also cause discoloration due to the accumulation of plaque they trigger. It’s a double whammy that can ruin your smile without proper care.
Bacteria in the mouth don’t stay in one place. They spread from the teeth to the gums. If your gums look bright red or swollen, or if they bleed when you brush, it’s a sign that too much plaque has accumulated in your mouth.
Of course, the presence of new cavities is a huge warning sign that your diet is damaging your teeth. The more acidic, sugar foods and beverages you eat and drink, the more vulnerable your teeth become to decay.
How to Protect Your Teeth With Better Eating Habits
Eating healthy isn’t just about avoiding lollipops and soda. There are many nutritious and delicious foods that actually improve your oral health and protect against decay. Try adding these mouth-friendly foods to your meals and snacks to prevent lasting damage to your smile.
Fruits and veggies are bursting with antioxidants and vitamins that fight damaging free radicals and deliver nutrients that maintain the integrity of your teeth and gums. Vegetables also contain vital nutrients and minerals that reduce inflammation and remineralize tooth enamel. These are a few of the best choices:
- Spinach, kale, broccoli
Dairy products contain high levels of calcium and phosphorus, the two nutrients that remineralize enamel, fight plaque and strengthen the teeth. Just be sure to select natural dairy without added sugar. Greek yogurt, milk, and cheese are all tasty, healthy options.
Lean protein is rich in phosphorus and other essential minerals like zinc, iron, and B vitamins. The best choices for your smile diet include chicken, lean beef, eggs, and wild-caught fish.
Last, but certainly not least, is water. Swap all of your beverages for water to make a powerful impact on your smile. Water is the only beverage choice that doesn’t compromise your oral health with sugar and extra ingredients. Instead, water washes away food debris and sugar after you eat. This makes it much harder for bacteria to eat away at the teeth and cause cavities. Water also dilutes harmful acid lingering on tooth enamel.
When in doubt, ask your Carlsbad, CA dentist for advice and schedule your regular six-month checkups like clockwork.