The best foods to eat keep us happy and healthy. In the long run, foods that are bad for our teeth will do neither. We all know that sticky, sugary, and crunchy foods are bad for oral health. But which foods, in particular, are the worst?
Some foods that may seem healthy at first glance are actually hazardous for our teeth, like dried fruit, citrus water, and saltine crackers. For example, when saltine crackers mix with saliva, they form a concrete mix of starch revenue that sticks to your teeth until they are brushed clean. This gives the bacteria in your mouth a long-lasting fuel supply if you enjoy snacking on crackers or chips throughout the day.
Eliminating overly-sugary or highly acidic foods from your diet is the best way to protect your teeth, but sometimes sticky or sugary foods are unavoidable. Flossing can certainly help mitigate bad effects, but these are 10 of the most harmful foods to watch out for.
1. Carbonated Drinks
Most carbonated drinks are loaded with sugar. These drinks can cause cavities or lead to tooth decay, but that’s not all — these beverages are also very acidic. Acidic food and drinks attack your enamel, reducing the surface hardness of your teeth and eventually resulting in discoloration. Once the acid eats the enamel away, it teams up with the sugar in these fizzy drinks and starts to form cavities. Diet soda may be sugar-free, but both regular and diet carbonated drinks are acidic.
2. Sour, Sticky, and Hard Candies
Candy is notoriously bad for our teeth, but sour and sticky candies are the worst. Hard candies may not stick to the teeth but soaking them in sugar for extended time periods can be just as bad. When eaten in moderation, it’s the sticky and sour sugar-coated candies that do the most damage but a hard candy habit leads to tooth decay rapidly.
People who drink alcohol daily are susceptible to higher levels of plaque and are three times as likely to lose teeth permanently. All types of alcohol dry the mouth and saliva is very important in keeping our teeth moist to prevent plaque and bacteria from latching on. Added citrus or sugar form acids that can lead to tooth cracks and dark soda mixers or red wine on a regular basis stains your teeth. Alcohol is also the second leading cause of oral cancer. Learn more about where and when to get screened for oral cancer.
Any drink that isn’t water can lead to bacteria build-up on the teeth, tongue, and around the gums. When it comes to coffee, the acidic base and added sugars or creams can make matters worse. Some coffee lovers have transitioned to cold brew coffee because it is less acidic and therefore better for total health. Bad breath is another pitfall of drinking coffee because it sticks to our tongues. To no surprise, it sticks to our teeth too and can lead to tooth discoloration. If cleanings are scheduled every six months your dentist can usually combat the majority of these coffee stains before it’s too late.
5. Bread and Crackers
Bread, crackers, and other starchy foods can mix with your saliva and form a cement-like coating on your teeth. Starch-based foods can linger in your mouth and eventually break down into simple sugars. These sugars bind with bacteria to produce acid, leading to tooth decay. Avoid too many starchy snacks throughout the day and remember to brush if you indulge.
6. Citrus Fruits
As mentioned above, citrus can be detrimental to our teeth if consumed too frequently. Opt out of lemon in your water and stay away from an everyday orange juice habit because too many citrus fruits will damage your enamel and lead to tooth decay. If you do indulge in high-citrus meals or snacks, avoid keeping these foods in your mouth for too long.
Most things that go “crunch” aren’t great on our pearly whites. Sadly, chips aren’t an exception. The starch in chips can lead to acid build-up too. Especially if the chips are flavored. If you crave the crunch try carrots dipped in dressing or hummus, peppers dipped in unflavored Greek yogurt, or apples dipped in peanut butter.
8. Breath Mints and Cough Drops
Breath mints and cough drops are like hard candies, a bath of sugar for your mouth. They may have different motives, but both affect the teeth as poorly as sucking on hard candy. Sugar-free breath mints are a better alternative for your oral health, but sugar substitutes are ill-famed for other health concerns.
9. Berries, Pomegranates, and Grapes
These foods are notorious teeth stainers. Sweet and tasty as they may be, they are also considered acidic fruits. It’s a good thing they happen to be great sources of vitamin C, so indulging in these foods from time to time is acceptable. Just be sure to use a fluoride rinse after you finish.
10. Dried and Canned Fruit
Dried fruit is loaded with fructose, a natural sugar found in plants, honey, and more. Fructose is absorbed and metabolized by the body quickly so it can be used to replenish glycogen and other healthy body substances. Sadly, fructose doesn’t leave as friendly of a trace on our teeth. Plus, many dried fruits are coated in additional sugar, which is a big contributor to tooth decay. Producing this high sugar content in a sticky consistency makes a dangerous combination that can only be flossed or brushed away. Canned fruit, on the other hand, is often canned in syrup that soaks otherwise healthy fruit in an unhealthy dose of sugar.
More foods and habits to be careful of include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chewing ice, and most sports drinks — they can be overly sugary and highly acidic. No matter the snack or meal, it’s best to rinse with water or even brush and floss afterward. If you do choose to indulge in these foods, be sure to drink water while you eat and clean your teeth thoroughly.