Before you drink another soda, you should know that that soda (even the diet kind) is harming your teeth. This drink—like various others—contains acids that will break up the minerals in your teeth, decaying them. Certain foods will have this effect, especially the sweet treats you enjoy. During National Nutrition Month, use these recommendations for food and drink choices so that your diet is healthy for your teeth!
Foods and Your Teeth
Every time you put food in your mouth, you are either hurting or harming your teeth. This is because what you’re eating can cause plaque buildup or acidic demineralization from bacteria. When you eat, sugars in your foods (even non-sugar foods) combine with your mouth bacteria. That bacteria consumes the sugar and expels an acidic substance that we call plaque. Plaque will stick to your teeth and looks like a cruddy, clear film along your gum line. Because that plaque is acidic, it works on your teeth to break up the minerals that keep your teeth strong.
Foods you want to watch out for include:
- Sugary sweets. Basically, the more sugar you eat, the more acidic plaque your mouth makes. Cookies, cakes, candies, and added sugars (in many “health foods”) and more all have sugar.
- Starchy foods. Breads, pastas, cookies, crackers and similar (generally white) foods break down into sugar in your mouth and body.
- Hard/chewy candies. Sucking on hard candies or mints exposes the teeth to sugars for an extended period of time. Chewy candies, jellies, fruits, etc., will have the acidic sugars stick to your teeth for longer.
- Hard foods. Instead of acid damage to your teeth, biting into hard nuts, uncooked veggies, hard fruits and non-food items can cause you dental injuries.
Watch What You Drink
Love the fizzy bubbles in your soda pop? You may like the taste, but this type of drink is damaging your teeth rather quickly. In both sparkling water choices and sodas, the fizzy bubbles are produced when carbonic acid mixes with water. Because it’s acid, it breaks up the minerals of your teeth when the drink touches your teeth. What’s worse is that studies show the acids sit on your teeth for 20-30 minutes after drinking, working on that demineralization. Avoid brushing your teeth for this period of time after drinking carbonated beverages or you can take off some of your tooth enamel. Over time, you may notice your teeth becoming thinner or the inner dentin layer showing through.
Citrus fruits and drinks will also have the same effect on your teeth, as they contain “citric acid”. Because it’s an acid, this substance will break up your tooth minerals. You want to wait the same amount of time after eating or drinking citrus so you don’t take extra enamel off the teeth. Check food and drink labels for this acid, as many drinks (sports, energy, alcoholic drinks, etc.) have citric acid as a preservative. Sticking to water and milk will generally be your best choices in protecting your teeth the best. For all other drinks, either avoid them or drink through a straw to limit contact with the teeth.
Protect Your Teeth
There are countless foods and drinks on the market that have sugar and acids in them. You may not be able to avoid these substances 100% of the time. That is why you want to help protect your smile as much as you can. Prevention is always the best way to avoid damage to your teeth. Always check food labels and avoid high-sugar foods. Fruits will have natural sugars in them, but you want to look for the “added sugar” line in your food products. Some hidden sugar foods that don’t seem like sugar foods include yogurt, condiments, salad dressings, dried fruits, breads, pastas, peanut butter, cereal, granola, and especially “diet” bars.
You can also protect your teeth with fluoride and great oral hygiene habits. Fluoride is a naturally-occuring mineral in the earth’s crust that has been shown to protect the teeth against acid damage. Once it was added to public water sources, it reduced tooth decay cases by at least 25%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use toothpaste with fluoride in it and follow your package instructions. Your dentist may also prescribe you a fluoride treatment you can do at home. For patients with frequent cavities or gum issues, your dentist may also suggest dental sealants, or plastic coatings for your teeth.
Tips for a Healthy Smile
Your food choices will go a long way in determining how healthy your teeth stay throughout your life. Make a conscious effort to avoid added sugars, if possible, and to avoid foods and drinks that will damage your teeth. If you absolutely have to have your flavored water each day (or other beverage), try to only have one a day instead of all day long. Even that small effort will help reduce the amount of contact acids have with your teeth.
We also give our patients these tips for reducing plaque and bacteria in the mouth that will lead to tooth decay and gum disease:
- Brush your teeth every single day. The American Dental Association recommends brushing for at least 2 minutes, twice a day. Brush your teeth about 20 minutes after each meal for an even better clean.
- Floss your teeth. This is an important step that many people skip, which means that about 40% of your teeth are not getting cleaned each day. Floss 1-2 times each day, making sure you get up in the gum line and that you scrape your teeth gently as you go. This removes plaque and acid buildup that is hard-stuck to the teeth.
- Visit the dentist. Don’t know how healthy your teeth are? We can help you to know at your comprehensive exam and dental cleanings, which should happen twice a year.
For specific tips for your teeth or oral health situation, call Dr. Evanson’s office today at (720) 409-0008!
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