There are certain foods and drinks that have a disproportionately positive or negative impact on the health of your mouth and teeth. Many foods and drinks can lead to more plaque and damaged teeth. The first place a poor diet and poor nutrition is noticed will be in your mouth.
At Riversdale Dental in Camberwell, we thought it would be useful for our dental patients to know about what foods and drinks to avoid to help your oral and overall health and wellbeing.
Does it really matter what I eat and drink?
It sure does! Plaque is a sticky, bacterial film contributing to tooth decay and gum disease. After eating the worst foods for teeth, acids released from plaque begin attacking the enamel (outer layer of the tooth). Cavities may occur as your enamel breaks down and this can lead to the following:
When you don’t brush your teeth or floss, it causes plaque on to harden and form tartar. When you have tartar above your gum line, it can result in gingivitis, and this can lead to more serious dental problems such as gum disease.
Looking after your teeth isn’t just about having a nice smile and avoiding cavities. Avoiding serious dental problems like gum disease can also help prevent heart disease and protects your immune system.
When your diet lacks beneficial nutrition, it becomes harder for your mouth tissues to stop infection which can lead to periodontal disease. While poor nutrition isn’t the direct cause of this disease, many researchers think in individuals with nutrient-poor diets, the disease can be more severe and progress faster than in those with nutrient-abundant diets.
A diet that’s sugary with starchy foods feeds the plaque-causing bacteria on your teeth. When starches or sugars attach to the plaque in your mouth, the resulting acids begin attacking your teeth as soon as you consume the food and drink and continues to attach even after you’ve finished eating.
As these attacks continue, the hard enamel on your teeth’s surface breaks down, leading to tooth decay. The bacteria-filled plaque may also break down teeth-supporting bone, gums and other structures in the mouth by triggering an inflammatory response which, again, can lead to more serious dental and health problems.
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What are the worst food and drink for your teeth?
1. Fizzy Drinks
Carbonated or fizzy drinks, especially the non-diet variety, causes the worst dental erosion of almost any food or drink.
Some darker coloured fizzy drinks can also lead to staining and yellowing of your teeth as weakened enamel is more susceptible to staining.
Bacteria and the sugar in fizzy drinks combine in your mouth and produce acid. Even “sugar-free” and diet drinks produce corrosive destruction. The acid damages your teeth by dissolving your enamel. Each time you take a sip you’re starting a whole new 20-minute acid attack cycle. These repeated attacks weaken your enamel.
Some diet fizzy drinks contain phosphoric and citric acid and non-diet fizzy drinks can contain up to ten teaspoons of sugar in a single can.
2. Crisps and snacks
Chips have a texture to them which turns “gummy” after chewing. The resulting substance lingers in your mouth. Crisps are starchy and get stuck in your teeth, causing the acid-producing bacteria responsible for attacking your teeth and increasing your risk of tooth decay.
The starch in crisps turn into sugar and gets trapped in between your teeth to feed plaque and bacteria and ultimately tooth decay.
Crisps also dry out your mouth. Saliva keeps food from getting stuck on your teeth. Saliva also helps repair early signs of gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral infections. However, when your mouth becomes dry, it lowers your saliva level and keeps saliva from doing its job.
Many juices are citrus based which is an acidic food which may erode enamel and over time make your teeth more vulnerable to decay. Repeated exposures to acidic foods can erode enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to decay over time.
Lengthy and repeated citric acid exposure can cause your tooth enamel to dissolve. The demineralization of the hard-tooth surface, known as erosion, leads to tooth decay.
Acidic foods may cause irritation and visible sores to your gum line. Consuming too much citrus fruit can lead to damaged gums and sores.
4. Coffee & Tea
Coffee and tea assists mouth bacteria in creating acids that result in enamel and tooth erosion, causing your teeth to become brittle and thin.
The general rule with food and drink is if it can stain your clothes, it can stain your teeth. There are tannins in coffee and tea which cause colour compounds to stick to teeth more readily and leave a yellow hue behind.
The tannic acids do more damage to your teeth than simply staining them. These acids can break your tooth enamel down and cause decay.
Coffee may cause halitosis (bad breath) since it gets stuck to your tongue. It also dries out your mouth, keeping your saliva from repairing the early signs of tooth decay, gum disease, or oral infections as described above.
5. Sports Drinks
Sports drinks contain acids and sugar, causing the potential for erosion and cavities.
Sports drinks can stain your teeth due to the brightly-coloured dye that they contain.
The sugar in sports drinks stick to your teeth more than your saliva does, and this gives the oral bacteria more acid, leading to a higher risk of tooth decay.
Other Foods and Drinks to Avoid
While the above foods and drinks are some of the worst culprits for harm to your teeth, others that may loosen fillings, damage orthodontic wires, contribute to tooth erosion and stain teeth include:
- Alcohol (especially red wine)
- Dried fruits
- Chewy, sticky, and hard sweets
- Breath mints
- Corn on the cob
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Better ways to eat & drink
Is there a way to prevent cavities, erosion, and other oral health issues?
Yes, or at least you can reduce your chances of having these problems. Following these steps:
Save all acidic foods to eat with your meals to reduce the amount of contact they have on your teeth. When you eat these with other foods, it also neutralizes the acid better.
Drink water to wash down acidic foods or beverages.
Drink using a straw. Straws reduce the amount of contact acidic drinks have with your teeth.
Avoid carbonated drinks. Try to drink water, tea, or milk instead.
Don’t brush immediately after eating. Contrary to popular belief, brushing right after you eat or drink may cause damage to your teeth. Acid makes your enamel soft, so when you brush right after you eat, it can make damage happen faster. Wait at least 30 minutes after you eat or drink to brush.