Good oral health is important for a good overall health, and everything that enters your mouth can potentially cause damage to your teeth.
Most people know that sweets can harm your teeth, but there are other foods that negatively affect your dental health which many people don’t know about.
Learn which foods and drinks can damage your teeth, which are good to take, and how to keep your teeth in optimal condition.
How Can Foods And Drinks Affect Your Oral Health?
The bacteria in your mouth require the food you take in to grow, and while doing so produce acids. These acids have the nasty characteristic of softening the enamel – the protective coating of our teeth.
Even though enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies, it can be easily damaged once softened by acids, already by brushing your teeth!
Once eroded, the enamel cannot be restored, because the cells that are making the enamel are lost after tooth eruption.
When this protective layer loses its integrity, the softer inside of the tooth (the dentin) becomes exposed and cavities are born.
Sugar-rich Foods And Drinks
Everyone knows candy is not good for your health since it is converted into fat when we consume too much of it. But the sugars in candy are also great nutrients for the oral bacteria to grow and produce acids.
When possible, avoid sugar-rich foods and drinks, such as candy, soft drinks, fruit juices, and sports drinks.
Even though most sports drinks are designed to replace electrolytes, many of them use sugar as the main ingredient. Water is just as good, if not better, for hydration. If you do use sports drinks, opt for one that is low in sugar.
Products high in sugars
Acidic Foods And Drinks
Oranges and apples are fruits, so they must be healthy for you.
The vitamins and fibers definitely are, but these fruits are high in acid, and acid softens enamel which can lead to tooth decay.
This doesn’t mean you can never take acidic foods, but keep it to a minimum and rinse your mouth with water afterward.
Importantly, after taking sugar-rich or acidic foods or drinks, you should wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. Since the acids soften your enamel, brushing directly afterward causes tooth erosion.
Products with a low pH (high acidity)
You can find a good list of products that have a high acidity here.
Other Foods That Can Damage Your Teeth
Coffee and Tea
A cup of coffee or tea is generally not harmful to your teeth, although it can cause the teeth to appear yellowish. The additives like sugar in coffee, or lemon in tea, are what make these drinks harmful when you consume them on a daily basis.
Caffeine itself is also dehydrating, making the mouth deprived of saliva. Saliva is important for your oral health because it contains many proteins and enzymes that combat the bacteria in your mouth.
So morning coffee or tea is fine, but do not take it too often and try to keep the additives to a minimum.
Snacks like potato chips and pretzels might be delicious, but their crunchy nature makes them less than ideal for oral health. Crunchy foods often contain starch, and like sugars, starch is an excellent source for bacterial growth.
This is also true for modified snacks that tout being baked in the oven, or that are low in sodium and are, therefore, “healthier” for you. They may contain fewer calories, but it doesn’t change the potentially harmful effect of the starch.
Good Choices For Your Teeth
With the many foods and drinks that are bad for your teeth, what can you eat or drink?
Good old H2O is the best drink for your body and teeth. It will be hard to find a health care professional in any discipline to disagree.
Dental professionals will also agree that tap water is preferable to bottled water. Most tap water contains fluoride, which is one of the minerals that are essential for the remineralization of the enamel. Therefore, it helps to prevent the damage done by acids and fights tooth decay.
Proteins are high in phosphorus, which also protects the teeth by remineralizing the enamel. Foods high in protein include meat, nuts, and beans.
Foods high in protein
Here you can find a good list of foods high in protein.
Fresh Fruits And Vegetables
Not all fruits and vegetables (like lemons and oranges) are a good choice for your teeth. However, eating apples or carrots help to clean your teeth, including just under the gum line. It does, however, not in any way benefit your teeth the way brushing does.
These foods also require you to chew, which not only directly cleans your teeth, but also leads to the production of saliva.
And as mentioned before, saliva has multiple protective properties for protecting our teeth, which is why a dry mouth can cause severe teeth problems.
Also, fruits and vegetables are high in water content and fiber which are good for the mouth and body.
Fruits and vegetables good for your oral health
Dairy is also high in calcium and protein, but low in sugar. Protein and calcium strengthen teeth. The stronger teeth are, the better they are protected. Eating eggs, cheese, yogurt, and drinking milk is excellent for dental health.
Preventing problems from ever occurring is the best way to protect teeth. Education about good foods and the ones that have a negative impact on the mouth are paramount. Also, there is no substitute for early dental care.
The benefits of knowing how to brush properly, how and when to floss, and getting routine, professional cleanings are all just as important as knowing what foods can put your teeth at high risk for problems.
As mentioned, it is important to brush your teeth at least 30 minutes after finishing your meal, especially when it contains acids (milk, oranges, fruit juices, etc.). Otherwise, you can damage your teeth.