Even if you visit your dentist regularly and brush, floss and rinse on schedule, there are foods that can undermine your best efforts at oral health. Here’s an overview that will help you know what to cut down on or avoid altogether for a healthier mouth.
1. Sugary Foods
While we know that sugar is bad for your teeth, we may think that hard candies, cough drops and lollipops couldn’t possibly contain enough to be harmful. The truth is that sucking on any of these exposes your mouth to sugars for longer than is healthy. And if you use them repeatedly, the net effect is like soaking your teeth in sugar, which practically invites tooth decay in. Additionally, hard candies or drops that are chewed can also crack teeth and fillings.
2. Sticky Foods
The problem with sticky foods is not always the content of the food itself, but the fact that sticky foods tend to get stuck between the teeth, and that lets plaque start to build up. That build-up can eat away enamel, cause decay and cavities, and produce bacteria that cause bad breath and yellowing teeth. Dried fruit is one of the culprits, since the nutritional value of figs, dried mango or raisins is undercut by their concentration of dense sugar and non-soluble cellulose fiber that can trap sugars around the teeth.
3. Foods That Cause Dry Mouth
Saliva is nature’s way of keeping the mouth healthy by stopping foods from sticking to teeth, so if your saliva level drops, you may develop tooth decay or gum disease. Since many prescription and OTC medicines create dry mouth, it’s important to be aware of foods that add to the problem and try to avoid them or find substitutes for them. Coffee, alcohol and energy drinks top the list of mouth-drying foods to avoid.
4. Acidic Foods
Acid eats through tooth enamel over time, and that erosion can cause tooth sensitivity, pain, a higher chance of decay, and darker teeth. Citrus fruits contain high amounts of acid, but rinsing with water after drinking lemonade or eating grapefruit will stop the acid before it has time to go to work. White wine, tomatoes (including pasta sauce!), pickles and fruit juice are all acidic foods, and should be treated the same way. Soda, even diet sodas, are acidic, but drinking soda through a straw will limit the acid that comes into contact with your teeth.
5. Junk Food
Junk food may be just too tempting to resist all the time, but it pays to be aware of what it does to your mouth. Popcorn and potato chips both start out crunchy but wind up gummy and stuck in between your teeth, aiding unwanted bacterial growth, increasing the risk of tooth decay and promoting acid production. The vitamin and mineral balance required by the immune system to stay healthy will be depleted by a steady diet of fast food burgers and fries, making you more susceptible to decay and gum disease. Even so-called super-size hamburgers and other “big” foods that force you to open your mouth wider than it’s meant to do can cause problems with the temporomandibular joint, causing facial pain and problems chewing.