We try to do all the right things to keep our teeth as healthy as possible. We brush twice a day, floss, and avoid sugar. But these activities are not enough to prevent cavities.
If you have been following your oral care regimen faithfully and are still dealing with dental decay, what you’re eating could be contributing to your cavities.
Let’s review the foods you need to avoid to maintain your beautiful smile.
Foods to avoid to maintain beautiful, strong teeth
The sugar in candy is what is most commonly associated with causing cavities. Both hard and soft candies can get stuck in tooth crevices, around braces, and in cracks where bacteria live and feast on sugar. This will eventually produce cavities.
Hard candies can cause severe damage because they stay in the mouth longer. They expose your teeth to sugar and acids for prolonged periods of time. Chewy, sticky candies like gummy bears and jelly beans stick to your teeth and around orthodontic brackets in the same way. This can produce long-term damage.
If you must have a sweet treat, choosing one that’s quick to chew, dissolves quickly and can be swallowed. This will eliminate long term damage.
Soda is unhealthy for many reasons. It can contain high contents of sugar, in addition to carbonation, which can pull minerals from your teeth.
Even diet soda has been proven to be detrimental to the health of your teeth due to its carbonation, acids and large amounts of artificial sweetener.
Soda should be completely avoided if you have braces.
3. Citrus fruits
A glass of water with lemon is a chic drink for A-listers and health-conscious people alike. This is said to help to boost the metabolism and “wake the body up.”
However, citric acid from lemons can produce severe damage to your teeth. It produces white spot lesions that indicate decalcification. In fact, foods with a low pH rating (acidic) are the premiere cause of tooth decay and enamel erosion. This includes lemons, limes oranges, grapefruit, and other similar citrus fruits.
Minimize your teeth’s exposure to the acid by drinking citrus juice all in one go. Drink water immediately afterward to dilute any residual citrus acid in your mouth. Avoid consuming any citrus drinks after that. And, of course, maintain your oral hygiene routine.
If you are a wearer of clear aligners, it is extremely important to rinse your teeth with water after drinking something citric or acidic as saliva cannot readily reach your teeth to clear away the sugar and acid
4. Dried fruits
The sugar content in dried fruits can sometimes be higher than candy. A small box of raisins can contain as much as 25 grams of sugar. Dried fruits can also be easily caught on or between teeth, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and producing cavities. Some dried fruits can also contain added sugar. Be aware of dried fruits found in granola, energy bars, cakes, and cereals.
While studies have shown that wine can improve longevity, heart health, and cholesterol levels, it’s not so good for your pearly whites. The acids found in both red and white wine softens tooth enamel and can lead to decay. Be sure to drink water after having wine, to reverse the damaging effect of the acids on your teeth.
Although there are several health benefits associated with coffee and we all love our morning cup of joe, the tannic acids in coffee (and some teas) can soften tooth’s enamel. As with all tooth-damaging drinks, be sure to drink water afterwards and brush your teeth regularly to reduce the side effects of the acids.
7. Grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes
In modern day diets, we consume a lot of phytic acid in the everyday things we eat, like oatmeal, bran, soybeans, and even some fruits and vegetables.
Phytic acid is a type of phosphorus that cannot be easily absorbed by humans. As it binds with calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, it can make these minerals less available to the body and teeth. Mineral deficiencies like this can lead to tooth decay.
To reverse the effects of this phytic acid, consume higher amounts of animal fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
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What you can eat
Let’s review foods which will help you maintain a beautiful smile.
Meat, fish, and tofu are great sources of protein. Protein-rich foods are good for your teeth. Perhaps more importantly, many of them are also rich in phosphorus. Phosphorus is a mineral that studies have shown could help protect tooth enamel. Bone broth is a good source of phosphorus and can potentially help to reverse cavities.
2. Dairy: cheese, yogurt, milk
Calcium-rich dairy foods can help to protect your tooth enamel by replacing minerals in your teeth. In addition, they can keep your bones strong. Non-dairy products like almond, rice, or soy milk also contain good amounts of calcium.
Dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt have an acid neutralizing effect which has a benefit when eaten with acidic foods that can damage enamel, for example eating cheese while drinking wine.
Cheese also contains casein, a protein that contains compounds that help to repair enamel.
3. Crunchy vegetables
Vegetables like carrots and celery contain a lot of water. Both are natural tooth scrubbers and stimulate saliva, which contains bacteria-fighting enzymes. All vegetable fiber is good for your general health. So if you want a snack that will also be good for your teeth, you can’t go wrong by munching on a raw vegetable!
4. Sugar-free gum
For your dental health, avoid sugar and go sugar-free. If you want to chew gum, be sure to choose sugar-free gum. The artificial sweetener may help to satisfy your sugar craving and the chewing will stimulate your saliva, helping to neutralize plaque-forming bacteria.
Water is the best beverage for the health of your teeth and your body as a whole. It helps to maintain the pH balance in your mouth, rinsing residual sugars, acids, and food particles away. Drinking water throughout the day may help your brain stay alert and it will keep your body hydrated. It’s win-win-win, all around!
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The bottom line
Maintaining oral health throughout your lifetime can be easily achieved. You need not eliminate all sweets, acidic foods and dark liquids from your diet. All it takes is remembering a few techniques that help to limit damage and maintain strong, healthy teeth throughout your life.
- Limit your intake of sugary or acidic food and drink.
- Combine acidic food or drink with a meal or other non-acidic foods.
- Delay brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after consuming food or drink with high acidity as your enamel is softened.
- Use a straw when drinking soda or other sugary and acidic beverages.
Use fluoride toothpaste to restore and maintain your tooth’s minerals.
Ann Marie Gorczyca DMD, MPH, MS
Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca practices at Gorczyca Orthodontics in Antioch, CA. She studied at Wellesley College, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Harvard School of Public Health, completing her advanced orthodontic residency and receiving a Master of Science degree in oral biology from Northwestern University. Dr. Gorczyca is a member of the California Association of Orthodontists.
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