- by Dr. Karanjit Dhillon
- October 8, 2022
We often wonder what kinds of drinks and foods can harm our teeth. It is technically true that almost all foods and drinks can cause tooth decay or damage to the surface, or enamel, of the teeth.
However, not every food or drink causes equal harm. Also, some people are more sensitive to dental decay than others.
Many many foods and beverages can cause plaque buildup, which can have severe consequences on your teeth.
A bacteria-filled sticky film, Plaque contributes to gum disease and tooth decay. The sugar in a sugary snack or meal, causes the bacteria to release acids that can attack tooth enamel causing it to break down and leading to developing cavities.
Are Some Foods Worse than Others?
There are two main things to consider, when considering how bad food or drink can be for your dental health- its composition and its quality.
More than 700 species of bacteria live inside the mouth including some that are helpful and others that are harmful.
The harmful bacteria lead to the breaking down of the sugars from foods and drinks and turning them into acids, which over time can pull essential minerals from the teeth and lead to cavities.
With a lack of proper care and cleaning, these bacteria can also form a soft film, or plaque, on the surface of the teeth, worsening that acidity and creating an environment conducive for even more bacteria to breed.
The dental plaque can harden and turn into tartar, leading to irritation of the gums and causing gingivitis.
Types of Food Bad for the Teeth
Foods containing lots of sugar especially those composed of sucrose, or table sugar are particularly bad for the teeth as the detrimental bacteria thrive on them.
Some examples of such foods include processed foods, sugary drinks, pastries, fruit juice concentrates, and sodas.
Besides the above-mentioned foods, the foods that are sticky, gooey, or chewy get stuck in the alcoves and corners of the teeth and the spaces between them.
The excess sugar lingering on the teeth can be stored by the harmful bacteria in their cells, and keep on producing acid for hours after you’ve eaten. Some examples include dried fruits, syrups and candies.
Some other foods like sugary sodas, juices, energy drinks, and milkshakes can also harm teeth as they are acidic and wash the teeth in sticky and sugary solutions, causing the teeth to break down.
The starch in the bread is broken down to sugar by saliva in the mouth. The bread on chewing becomes like a gummy paste-like substance and sticks to the crevices between teeth, causing cavities.
Try to eat less-refined varieties like whole wheat as these contain fewer added sugars and they don’t break down easily.
As we all are aware Alcohol is never good for health anyway. But when it comes to your oral health, it can be quite detrimental too as it dries out your mouth, eroding it of saliva.
Saliva in our mouth helps in preventing food from sticking to the teeth, washes away the food particles, and repairs early signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and many other oral infections. It is extremely important to drink plenty of water and use fluoride rinses to keep your mouth hydrated.
Carbonated drinks can damage your teeth as they cause the plaque to produce more acid to attack tooth enamel.
Sipping carbonated drinks is similar to coating the teeth with acid. Moreover, Carbonated drinks can also dry out your mouth, as alcohol does.
Dark-colored sodas can even discolor or stain the teeth. The dental specialist at Morgan Hill Dentistry advises that one must not brush the teeth immediately after drinking a soda as this can actually hasten decay.
Citrus Fruits and Juices
Fruits like Oranges, grapefruits, and lemons contain a lot of vitamin C and their acid content can erode enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay.
To reap the benefit of the antioxidants and vitamins present in these fruits, eat and drink them in moderation and always try to rinse your mouth with water afterward.
Potato chips contain a lot of starch which converts into sugar that feeds the bacteria in the plaque. The acid production from the chips lasts a while as the particles get trapped in between the teeth. Always try to floss to remove the trapped particles after eating chips.
Though dried fruits are considered a healthy snack, some dried fruits like apricots, prunes, figs, and raisins, are sticky and can easily attach to the teeth and the crevices, leaving the sugar behind. Always Rinse your mouth with water after consuming them and brush and floss later.
How Can I Avoid Tooth Decay Caused by Food?
Saliva not only helps to flush away lingering food particles, but it is one of the most protective forces for the teeth as it remineralizes and strengthens tooth enamel.
Saliva contains bicarbonate, which helps to neutralize the acidity in the mouth. However, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for saliva to build up to protective levels, every time one eats or drinks.
Following some steps can help minimize the adverse effects of food. These include:
- Avoid frequent snacking or drinking as it can cause an imbalance. Try to limit the consumption of sugary drinks and if you must have it, then have it with a meal, or in one go rather than sipping it over a long period. Drinking water after eating or drinking sugary foods can also help to wash out any sugars.
- If you must have sweet treats, try to have Dark chocolate instead of candies as chocolate is not as bad as other sugary treats.
- Try to limit between-meal snacks and try to make nutritious choices if you feel an urge to snack. Chewing sugarless gum afterward can help to increase saliva flow and wash out food and acid.
- Try to eat the fruit rather than drink it, as fruit juices have more concentrated sugar and many store-bought or homemade fruit smoothies have added sucrose sugars.
- Drinking more fluoridated water can also help to prevent tooth decay.
- Remember the basics of tooth care. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Our experts at Morgan Hill Dentistry explain that following a good oral hygiene routine can make the nutritional boons of these foods outweigh the risks of dental damage.
- Black and green teas contain fluoride and drinking them can help to prevent dental decay, but don’t add sugar to them.
- Last but not the least, getting regular dental checkups every six months is recommended to catch any signs of decay before it gets serious. A professional can help thwart the danger because, by the time the cavity has formed to the point where you can notice it, much dental decay has happened. Also, regular professional cleaning can help you get rid of the plaque and save the teeth from decay.
Our team at Morgan Hill Dentistry, an emergency dental office believes that education is the first step to the prevention of diseases. We try to educate our patients about the various ways to maintain the good health of their teeth. A little caution can go a long way in saving you from lengthy dental treatments.
Book an appointment for a dental checkup and allow our professionals to help you to keep your teeth dazzling and healthy!