Summer brings so many wonderful things to mind. Warm weather, swimming, vacations, family time and good food shared with good friends. While backyard barbeques and family reunions bring some of your favorite tasty treats, beware of the effect some of your summer time favorites can have on your teeth and oral health. Like all food, some kinds are really good and beneficial to your teeth, and others can have damaging effects on your teeth. Before you “dive in” to your favorite summer snacks, let’s see if your choices land on the thumbs up or thumbs down list as we try to educate and inform you the best ways to take care of your smile during these happy days of summer!
Foods That Are Bad For Your Teeth
You might want to sit down for this (if you haven’t already). I can almost guarantee at least one of your favorite things to eat is going to be in this column. I don’t like it any more than you do, believe me! According to the American Dental Association (ADA) and dental professionals, here is the medical truth about foods that are bad for your teeth:
- Sodas/Soft Drinks - An unfortunate beverage of choice at any pool party, barbeque or beach gathering is always numerous kinds of soda. Sodas contain acid, whether they are diet sodas or not, and that acid can erode or weaken the enamel on your teeth and increase your risk for cavities. If you do continue to drink sodas, brush your teeth but try not to brush them immediately after drinking soda because the acid can weaken the structure of your teeth and brushing too hard in a state like this could cause damage to your teeth and enamel.
- Desserts, Candy & Other Sweet Treats - As hard as it is to say to us sweet addicts, we know that treats containing sugar, lots of sugar, are not good for us. Not only are they not good for our waistline but they are terrible for our teeth. If you MUST eat sweets (and we know it’s gonna happen) eat them after a meal, and try to choose sweets that can dissolve easily, that your saliva can help wash away. Hard candies, suckers, jelly beans, and gummies all stay in your mouth and teeth for a long time and are harder to wash and brush away. Make sure to brush your teeth after eating sugary treats.
- Ice Cream - I know, it’s hard to say, but ice cream has LOTS of added sugar and we know those sugars can turn into problems, like bacteria, which lead to cavities. The good news is that ice cream does have a lot of calcium which is good for teeth, so looking for a sugar free ice cream is a way to still have it without doing so much damage to your teeth
- Wine -Sorry wine connoisseurs, it’s true that wine is obviously made from grapes which do contain acid that can erode your enamel and potentially hurt your teeth. Wine also has a substance called tannins that can dry out your mouth and stain your teeth. If you know you will be drinking wine you can brush your teeth beforehand, cutting down on the amount of plaque on your teeth which is what the wine will stick to. Dental professionals recommend you wait at least half an hour after drinking wine before you brush your teeth. Any sooner and you could brush the wine into the surfaces of your teeth.
- Pickles - Nothing compliments those summer barbeque dishes better than crisp, crunchy pickles. But, one of the main ingredients in making pickles is vinegar which, as I’m sure you've guessed, has acid in it which can break down the enamel of your teeth along with causing stains. Distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar, any vinegar has a fairly high acid level to it, so keep that in mind when consuming items you know are made with high amounts of vinegar. Some pickles are also made with sugar which we’ve already established is not good for your teeth
- Citrus Fruits - This one is tough to learn about. Yes, citrus fruits are good for you and yes, they taste great added to your water, and yes they are FULL of vitamin C and other great vitamins and minerals. But they are HIGH in citric acid and, like all other acids, can wear away the enamel on your teeth and pave the road to cavities. The best answer is to eat them in moderation and ALWAYS brush your teeth. Grapefruit, lemons, and limes have the highest levels of citric acid. If you are drinking fruit juice try to remember to use a straw which can help some of those acids go down without having direct impact on your teeth
- Bread and potato chips - I know, the yummy carbs too! Potato chips are loaded with starch which turns into sugar and can become trapped in between the teeth, growing the amount of bacteria in the plaque on our teeth. Bread, as wonderful as it is, isn't much better for your teeth. As you chew bread, your saliva will break down the starch it contains into sugar and it becomes a pasty, gummy substance in your mouth that will no doubt get stuck in the cracks and crevices of your teeth and between teeth
- Sports Related Drinks - Sports drinks, those with electrolytes and added carbs, are marketed to keep athletes hydrated and feeling strong. But most of these drinks have a lot of sugar and the liquid itself is thick, both properties making it easy for these beverages to stick to your teeth. Water is always the best solution for proper hydration.
Luckily eating a meal activates your saliva (which contains amounts of phosphates and calcium) that helps to digest your food and helps to neutralize the acid in the foods we eat and beverages we drink. Dental professionals recommend waiting at least 20 minutes after you finish eating a meal before brushing your teeth. This way, by waiting, you are allowing the saliva in your mouth the opportunity to remineralize the enamel on your teeth, any that the acid may have tried to dissolve.
Foods That Are Good For Your Teeth
Now that we’ve ruined your day and told you that your favorite foods, even the healthy ones, can cause damage to your teeth, let’s focus on the foods that ARE GOOD FOR YOUR TEETH! Yes, there are some, we promise!!
- Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber are good for your teeth. They help keep your gums and teeth clean and help your saliva to cleanse your mouth. Some good fiber examples are: pears, apples, bananas, broccoli, carrots, artichokes and potatoes, to name a few
- Dairy products are great for your teeth, like milk, cheese, and plain yogurt. The calcium and phosphates in cheese and milk help to increase saliva and help to replace the minerals and rebuild the enamel that other foods may have broken down
- Black tea and green tea are wonderful for your teeth because they contain polyphenols that can hold back or kill bacteria that can grow, spread and attack the teeth
- Fluoridated drinking water is great for teeth and other foods containing fluoride also give the teeth great benefits like seafood, cereals, and poultry products
- Sugar free gum - Chewing gum WITHOUT sugar is actually an excellent saliva booster and helps to clean your teeth as you chew
Take Care Of Your Smile
I know it’s hard to learn that a lot of your favorite foods have the potential to harm your teeth. In this case, knowledge can be power. You can still have the foods you love but limit your portions and the frequency with which you eat them. And, as always, BRUSH AND FLOSS YOUR TEETH!! If you ever wondered why your dental professionals say that over and over, now you know. Food, even fruits and vegetables, have acids, sugars and starches that can actually damage teeth if you aren’t consistent with your oral hygiene. Taking care of your body means taking care of your teeth. We want everyone to have a healthy smile!
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