Brushing and flossing daily with the right tools is on of the best ways to keep your teeth clean and cavity-free, but did you know that you can add a little extra protection by watching what you eat and drink? That’s because the foods you eat and the beverages you drink can have an effect on the health of your teeth thanks to something called plaque.
Plaque is a bacteria-filled sticky film that coats your teeth and gums, leading to gum disease and tooth decay. If you like sugary snacks (or meals), you should know that these sugars cause the bacteria in the mouth to release acids that attack tooth enamel and create holes that cause cavities to develop.
Did you know that cavities are the most common chronic disease affecting people aged six to 19 years old? Cavities can leave behind pain, chewing problems, and tooth abscesses. Plaque that isn’t brushed and flossed away daily hardens and turns into tartar which leads to gingivitis (initial stage of gum disease).
Foods To Avoid for Healthy Teeth & Gums
Some foods & beverages really make plaque thrive, so limiting them and/or cleaning your teeth right after you consume them will really help.
So here’s some of the foods that can really do a number on your pearly whites:
Types of Foods to Avoid: #1 Sweets (aka Sugar)
Candy – Jelly beans, chewy candy, caramel, and sweet foods like cookies are all plaque’s best friend. They stick to the teeth which means the plaque has more time to thrive. Better to satisfy your craving for sweets with a square of chocolate that can be chewed quickly and washed away easily, fresh fruit which doesn’t stick to teeth, and best of all, chewing sugar-free gum that stimulates saliva production.
Dried Fruit – If you like dried fruit like apricots, figs, raisins and prunes, they may be healthy but they’re also sticky and get stuck on your pearly whites (and in-between), leaving behind a sugary residue. It can help to rinse well with water after eating these and brushing and flossing thoroughly. Fresh fruit, however, is a tooth-healthy substitute for their dry counterparts!
Alcohol – Alcohol dries out your mouth, while saliva keeps the mouth moist and your teeth healthier. Saliva keeps plaque from sticking to your teeth and actively washes away oral debris, helping to fight tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections. Limit alcohol consumption and rehydrate by drinking lots of water and rinsing with fluoride mouth washes after you do drink.
Types of Foods to Avoid: #2 Simple Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates feed the bad bacteria lurking in your mouth. Chips, crackers, cakes, muffins, and white-flour-based foods all attack the teeth the way sugar does. Eating carbs with protein – which is low in simple sugar and high in calcium and phosphorus – also help balance the pH caused by simple carbs. These foods will also help rebuild the enamel (remineralization) of your teeth.
Bread – Chewing bread stimulate saliva which breaks down the starches into sugar. As this gets gummy it sticks in the hiding places around your teeth and raises plaque levels. Chewing whole wheat bread is harder to break down because it’s less refined.
Potato Chips – These yummy foods are loaded with starches which turn into sugar and is easily trapped between teeth, busily feeding the bacteria in plaque. They also produce acids which attack tooth enamel. It’s best to floss your teeth after eating chips to remove trapped particles.
Types of Foods to Avoid: #3 Acids
Carbonated Drinks – Did you know that constantly drinking soda can damage your teeth the same as using methamphetamine or crack cocaine? That’s because the carbonation enables plaque release more acid that then destroys your enamel and leaving you with tooth decay. So, if you’re drinking soda all day you’re basically giving your teeth an acid bath! Soda also dries out your mouth and lessens saliva production. Adding insult to injury, if you drink dark-colored sodas they will darken and stain your tooth enamel.
Citrus – Oranges, grapefruits, kiwis and lemons might be healthy with all that vitamin C, but they’re also high in acid. To minimize the impact that citrus fruits and juices can have on your teeth, try drinking and eating them with meals and rinsing well with water afterward.
Remember, drinking these foods and beverages won’t destroy your dental health in a single instance, but having them frequently will. Enjoy these items sparingly, and clean your mouth well afterward.
A winning strategy for protecting your healthy smile is keeping plaque from wreaking havoc in your mouth. You can do this by brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing once a day, and seeing our exceptional hygienist, every three to six months (depending on the state of your gums) to remove tartar and annual exams with our educated dentist, Dr. James Powell, to check for developing problems.