Oral hygiene is probably one of the earliest lessons you learned in life. You know that brushing, flossing, and—most importantly—eating right are the keys to healthy teeth. But, if you’re like most people, you probably faltered somewhere along the way and took to unhealthy eating, possibly out of ignorance.
We’ve compiled the nine worst foods for your teeth and their healthy counterparts so that you can get back on track. By avoiding some of these foods and beverages and sticking with healthy alternatives, you can get back your smile while improving your overall health.
Potato Chips and Crackers
It’s obvious that you should avoid sugary candies, but don’t replace them with potato chips or other snack crackers. These can be just as damaging and shouldn’t be considered as an option if you’re looking to avoid tooth decay.
Due to their crunchy nature, chip and cracker particles can get stuck between your teeth when chewing. Once mixed with saliva, these starch particles are easily converted into sugars. Without immediate flossing or brushing, these foods have a similar effect on tooth enamel as their sugar-based counterparts that you find in most junk foods.
Alternative to Your Favorite Chips
Whether you are chasing away a candy obsession or just craving something crunchy, try nuts instead. Unlike crackers, nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals that not only promote healthy teeth but also enhance saliva production as well as enamel protection.
Cola-type sodas cause teeth stains, but don’t consider clear sodas as better alternatives. A recent study by Southern Illinois University of Dental Medicine found clear sodas to be even more harmful to teeth than brown varieties. The clear sodas in the study contained more enamel-scathing citric acid and less ascorbic acid than dark-colored colas. Teeth dipped in the clear sodas were also found to lose more weight than those dipped in the colored sodas.
Alternative to Sodas
If you must have soda, try root beer. Most varieties are not caffeinated, and it doesn’t contain phosphoric or citric acids, which erode your tooth enamel.
Like most other fermented foods and drinks, yogurt contains high levels of lactic acid. This has the same effect on tooth enamel as citric and phosphoric acids. And, while it is famed for its probiotics and beneficial bacteria, fermented yogurt should be avoided.
Alternative to Yogurt
Cheese and milk have a similar effect in the body as yogurt. The calcium found in these dairy products also helps to restore some minerals in the teeth.
This kind of bread is merely a refined carbohydrate. During chewing, the salivary enzymes break down the starch in the bread into a gummy sugar-like substance that sticks to your teeth.
To minimize the danger of sugars corroding your tooth enamel, opt for whole grain wheat options.
As much as you may want fresh breath throughout your day, don’t let it be at the expense of your teeth in the long run. Most breath mints have significant sugar additives and the fact that they are chewed for a long time exposes your teeth to dental problems.
Breath Mint Alternative
Opt for sugar-free breath mints and gums. You can avoid the hazards of sugar-filled mints and gum while helping stimulate the production of saliva by only chewing sugar-free products. It not only helps maintain fresh breath, but it also neutralizes any acids and sugar deposits around the teeth.
Vinegar, though a crucial ingredient in salad dressings and sauces, can trigger tooth decay. Its high acidity erodes tooth enamel, causing decay over time.
How to Avoid Acidity from Vinegar
After eating vinegary salad dressing, consider rinsing your mouth with plenty of water to neutralize the acidity. Sugar-free gums can also help reduce the effect on your teeth.
Does this come as a surprise to you? If so, look at regular coffee drinkers; you’ll notice their teeth are considerably discolored. Coffee is also acidic and negatively acts on tooth enamel, accelerating wear and discoloration.
If giving up coffee isn’t an option for you, consider taking in plenty of water after every coffee session. Also avoid additives such as sugar in your daily coffee.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Have you ever contemplated the effect your favorite snack has on your teeth? The high sugar content of peanut butter and jelly makes them harmful to your oral health.
Alternative to Your PB&J
Consider more nutritional and orally hygienic food options like cheese.
Just like other crunchy foods, popcorn pieces will always find their way to the spaces between your teeth, promoting decay. Additionally, raw popcorn kernels pose the risk of chipping your tooth enamel while chewing.
Alternative to Popcorn
Looking for something crunchy at the movies? Try nuts instead!
Start Switching Today!
While most of these foods have several health benefits for your body, their impact on your teeth shouldn’t be ignored. If you can’t avoid them altogether, be sure to consume them in moderation, and always brush or floss after every meal. Remember: your smile is your first impression, so do what you can to protect it.
If you have any questions or concerns about your current diet, feel free to reach out to us at Dr. Chris Mott’s office. We will be happy to help you figure out the best way to eat and maintain your oral health!