As a parent, you teach your children good oral hygiene habits. You show them how to brush and floss properly, and you schedule regular checkups with their dentist. You even make sure their diet contains foods that strengthen their teeth. And this Halloween, you’ll closely monitor your kids’ candy consumption so they don’t develop cavities.
But do you pay such close attention to your own diet?
Because of the foods and beverages they consume daily, adults are more susceptible to damaging their teeth. Below, we’ve listed the most ghoulish foods and drinks that harm your teeth so you can better protect your smile.
1. Citrus Fruits
With cold and flu season approaching, you might feel tempted to stock up on oranges, lemons, and limes. After all, increasing your vitamin C intake boosts your immune system. However, if you eat highly citric fruits, you risk eroding away your teeth’s enamel.
Rather than give up your favorite citrus fruits entirely, try a juiced alternative. Visit your local grocery store, and look for citrus fruit juices fortified with calcium and vitamin D to protect your teeth as you drink.
If you use coffee to wake yourself up in the morning, your habit could cost you in the long run.
According to recent studies, coffee on its own is a relatively healthy drink option. But if you load your latte or espresso with sweeteners and creamers, you could develop serious dental issues over time. Bacteria feed off of the sugars from your morning cup, and as the bacteria accumulate, they may lead to gum disease and cavities. Additionally, the acids in coffee also wear away tooth enamel, so your teeth stain more easily.
But you don’t have to sacrifice your favorite espresso to preserve your teeth. Swap out a few cups of coffee a week for black or green tea. These teas contain polyphenols, compounds that slow bacteria growth. So as you drink more of these teas, you lower your risk for dental issues.
3. Dried Fruit
You might seem surprised to see this item on our list. Though dried fruits are a healthy snack option, many store-bought varieties are incredibly sticky or gooey. And these types of foods can cause the most damage to your teeth.
Sticky foods tend to stay in your mouth longer, and bacteria use the remnants of your trail mix or dried apricots as a food source. If possible, opt for fresh fruits for your snacks instead of their dehydrated counterparts.
However, if you prefer to snack on dried fruits, make your own at home rather than buying them directly from the store. Invest in a dehydrator and follow the instructions. Or, if you’d rather forego a dehydrator, use your oven to make your own homemade dried fruit.
Pistachios themselves don’t typically damage teeth. But their shells do. Many people use their teeth to remove these nuts from their shells. Unfortunately, these hard shells crack and chip teeth, and even lead to more extensive damage. If you love to snack on pistachios, purchase them pre-shelled from the grocery store.
As well as an ice-cold glass of Coke or Mountain Dew pairs with your meals, sodas pose a huge threat to your overall oral health. These drinks contain both phosphoric and citric acid-and these acids strip down enamel and soften the materials underneath. Soda also contains high levels of sugar, which serve as a breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria.
Replace your favorite carbonated beverage for a low-sugar, low-acid juice option or water. If you’d rather not give up soda, drink it during mealtimes, as food usually neutralizes the acids found in these beverages.
After a long day in the office, you might enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail or two. Not only do alcoholic beverages weaken the enamel on your teeth, but they also reduce your mouth’s saliva production. If your saliva falls below a certain level, your risk for tooth decay and gum disease increases.
Though you won’t find any alternatives to your favorite glass of chardonnay or decanter of Guinness, limit your alcohol consumption to protect your teeth. You can also add a fluoride rinse to your dental care regimen to counteract the drying effects of alcohol.
Processed carbohydrates (like those found in white bread, pasta, chips, and crackers) act as an excellent food source for bacteria in your mouth. When your saliva breaks down these starches, they become sugars that bacteria feed on. As a result, these bacteria produce acids that disintegrate your teeth.
Substitute processed carbs for a whole-grain, unrefined alternative. For example, use San Juan Island 9- Grain bread for sandwiches rather than plain white bread.
The next time you leave your dentist’s office, keep these tips in mind. Avoid foods on this list that can damage your teeth, and try some of the alternatives to curb any cravings you have. If you don’t like some of the foods mentioned here, you can also ask your dentist to recommend other alternatives as well.
And don’t forget to rinse your mouth after you eat. This step clears away any starches and sugars that remain in between your teeth so you’ll keep your smile as clear as possible between checkups.