When it comes to how your diet can affect your teeth, there are a few things to consider. Most people may have an idea of what are tooth-friendly foods, but some of these foods may actually be bad for teeth. Most people already know that sugary foods are not good for your teeth, but it may not always be clear what foods are high in sugars. Acidic foods and drinks can also be harmful to your teeth and should be limited.
How often you have sugary or acidic foods matters more than the quantity of them that you are eating. In other words, it isn’t as important how much of a sweet or acidic food you have at one time, but how many times during the day you have them.
Sugar is bad for our teeth because the bacteria in our mouths easily process the sugars and turn them into acids. The acids are what cause cavities to form.
Sugary foods can be broken up into different categories:
Slowly dissolving sugary treats like lollipops or hard candies stay in the mouth for the longest amount of time and are the most harmful to your teeth.
Sticky sugary snacks like raisins, granola bars or gummy candies are the second most harmful because they get stuck in the grooves of your teeth are hard to clean away.
Liquid sugars found in juice, milk, and yogurt stay in the mouth for the least amount of time and are the least harmful but also need to be limited in frequency.
Considerations for sugary foods:
Read labels. Glucose, fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, maltose and dextrose are all sugars. There are many different names for sugars on labels.
Natural sugars such as honey, maple syrup, and agave syrup are just as harmful to teeth as refined white sugar is.
Many fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars. These are part of a healthy diet and should not be avoided, but care should be taken to clean your teeth properly every day so that these foods are not able to cause any harm to your teeth.
Water is the best drink to have between meals. If having juice, always choose 100% real fruit juice with no added sugar. Try to limit having juice or milk to mealtimes.
Starchy carbohydrates are broken down into sugars in our mouths. This means foods such as crackers, pasta, and bread can also be harmful to teeth if snacked on frequently.
The best time to have a sugary treat is directly after a meal. This is when you have a lot of saliva being produced in your mouth, so it washes the sugar away. Sugary treats should only be consumed in moderation.
Foods that are high in acids can be harmful to our teeth and lead to dental erosion and tooth sensitivity. Some examples of acidic foods and drinks are; citrus fruits, salad dressings, pop, wine, beer, juice, coffee, and tea.
The oral environment is meant to be at a neutral pH. When we eat or drink anything acidic, the pH drops, and it takes about 30 minutes to return to neutral again. It is when our mouths are in the acidic state that cavities can form. This is why frequent snacking can lead to cavities because the pH in our mouths remains acidic for long periods of time.
Considerations for having acidic foods and drinks:
Reduce frequency. Limit acidic drinks to mealtimes and avoid sipping on them over long periods.
Rinse your mouth out thoroughly with water after having anything acidic.
Wait 30 minutes after having anything acidic before you brush your teeth. You want to wait until the pH in your mouth returns to neutral, and your enamel has time to re-harden. If you brush too soon, you will be at risk of wearing away the enamel.
Pop and energy drinks are both very acidic and sugary. These drinks should be avoided if possible. If you have them, try to use a straw to limit contact with your teeth.
Healthy tooth-friendly choices:
Raw, crunchy fruits and vegetables. Softer foods stick to teeth while crunchy foods can stimulate more saliva production. Saliva is our mouth’s natural cleanser and the more, the better!
Nuts and seeds. Homemade granola with a mix of nuts and seeds is a good alternative to sugary, store-bought granola.
Naturally unsweetened nut butter.
Unsweetened plain yogurt. Flavored yogurt is usually high in sugar so adding fresh or frozen berries to plain yogurt is a healthy alternative.
A diet consisting of lots of fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed foods without added sugars is the best for our bodies and are tooth-friendly. A healthy diet combined with a good oral hygiene routine will keep your teeth healthy and strong.