When it comes to oral health, there are certain foods and drinks your teeth can't handle in large doses. Some items that you consume on a day-to-day basis can cause the demineralization of your teeth, tooth staining, and tooth damage.
We are not just talking about candy and soda. Nutritious foods and drinks such as tea and oranges contain high amounts of sugar, vitamin C, or tannins, which stain teeth. Although dentists and doctors encourage their patients to eat these nutritious foods, they recommend exercising caution and increasing awareness of how they affect the teeth. To prevent cavities, staining, fractured teeth, and increased bacteria in the mouth, eating these foods in moderation or avoiding them altogether can improve your oral health.
You may be thinking, “Why should I avoid these foods and drinks?” or “What exactly happens to my teeth when I consume them?” Based on an explanation by Robert Schifferle, ADA/NYSDA Dentist, there are foods which demineralize the tooth and cause cavities, foods that stain our teeth, and foods that can break the teeth.Some foods have no obvious health benefits and we should encourage our patients not to eat them, while with others, we would want to just exercise a small degree of caution. -Robert Schifferle, ADA/NYSDA Dentist
“Some foods are acidic in nature, or contain sugars, which can be fermented by bacteria in the mouth to produce acid,” said Robert Schifferle, ADA/NYSDA Dentist. “When the tooth is exposed to acid, there is initially a demineralization of the tooth surface, which over time with continued acid exposure can lead to loss of tooth structure resulting in a cavity.” This goes for everything from sour candy to oranges and grapefruit. Schifferle recommends chewing a piece of sugarless gum after eating something acidic because it can help increase the amount of saliva in the mouth, which neutralizes the acid.
When it comes to tooth staining, it depends on the person and his or her resistance to stain development. “Some people may develop stains due to the nature of their saliva,” Schifferle said. “Some of the salivary proteins bind to the tooth surface and have an attraction to pigmented components from some foods. If you are the person with the pigment attractive proteins, then stain will readily form. If, however, you have reduced levels or genetically different salivary protein, you could be one of the people who can eat or drink most any food with only a minimal risk of stain developing.”
Although chewing on ice may seem like a safe habit and a unique way to hydrate, our teeth are not made to handle the texture of hard foods. There is a risk of tooth fracture while eating ice as well as foods like hard candies or mints.
We reached out to five dentists around the country: Cara C. DeLeon, DMD; Robert Schifferle, ADA/NYSDA Dentist; Timothy Chase, DMD; Andrew Allgood, DMD; and Gregory Cumberford, DDS, GPR about the foods and drinks they suggest avoiding or limiting in order to improve oral health.
“Some foods are very healthy and we should encourage our patients to eat them with some recommendations to help them maintain their dental health,” Schifferle said. “Some foods have no obvious health benefits and we should encourage our patients not to eat them, while with others, we would want to just exercise a small degree of caution.”
Whether it be a sugary cocktail or even a mixed drink with soda water, consuming alcohol tends to dry out the mouth, making it less resistant to decay, according to Andrew Allgood, DMD, PC, and spokesperson for the Georgia Dental Association. When the mouth dries out, saliva production lessens and leaves plaque on the teeth longer. To keep yourself hydrated and prevent your mouth from drying out, have a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks.
In addition to the fact that chips tend to be processed and high in sodium and fat, they are also not helpful for your teeth. “Chips tend to be crunchy and then chewy, causing them to linger in your mouth,” said Timothy Chase, DMD, Cosmetic Dentist, and Practicing Partner at SmilesNY. “The longer they are stuck in your teeth, the more acid produced.” Avoid eating greasy potato chips and try making your own vegetable chips instead.