When it comes to making food choices that are good for your teeth, most people instantly think of eliminating sugary drinks and sweet treats. While it is helpful to sidestep these types of foods and beverages, they aren’t the only considerations you should examine when looking to avoid cavities. You can damage your teeth without ever drinking a soda or eating a piece of candy. Here are a few surprising food items that can damage your teeth:
We know that citrus fruits are good for the body because they are packed with vitamins. Unfortunately, citrus fruits are also very acidic in pH. Their acidic pH combined with their natural sugars make them a serious threat to enamel.
The way that cavity-causing bacteria damage enamel is by “eating” sugar and producing acid as a waste product. The acid, when it stays in contact with the enamel, weakens and dissolves enamel. This can cause both erosion, a gradual wearing away of enamel, and cavities by allowing the bacteria to penetrate through the now-softened enamel.
Citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons and limes, can cause serious damage to the teeth when ingested in large amounts. Even their juices are dangerous. We commonly tell parents to avoid giving their children fruit juices between meals for this very reason.
The process of pickling a vegetable involves some spices and herbs and a lot of vinegar. Many people crave pickled cucumbers, onions, and okra. These vegetables themselves can actually be good for the teeth when consumed raw because they are full of complex carbohydrates and fibrous material that actually removes dental plaque.
When pickled, however, they can damage the teeth. The root of the problem is the acidic pH of vinegar and the resulting pickled vegetables. Vinegar is a strong acid, and the low pH is very erosive to tooth enamel. This pH problem becomes even more dangerous in someone with a dry mouth because they lack the counteracting alkaline pH of saliva.
We know you love your almonds, and nuts in general are good for your teeth; They’re a wonderful snack choice because they contain fat and protein instead of carbohydrates. The problem is not with nuts in general, but that they’re very hard and difficult to break when you chew them.
Teeth can withstand a certain amount of normal chewing force. When we increase that force by chewing on extremely hard food items, we overtax the teeth, putting them at risk for cracking and breaking. The risk increases the more we do it, so people with a constant habit of snacking on almonds have a higher risk for cracked teeth.
Popcorn may be a little dangerous for the teeth, but the real danger it poses is on the gums. As dentists, we see the damage that a lodged popcorn husk causes between the teeth and gums.
There are two major issues with popcorn impaction. One is that the husk itself becomes lodged between the teeth and gums and starts a gum infection. When you don’t see your dentist to have the husk removed, it can lead to a periodontal abscess. The second issue we commonly see is the damage the people do to their gums in their attempts to remove the popcorn remnant on their own. You should never use your fingers or any type of tool inside your gums.
How Can I Enjoy These Foods and Protect My Teeth at the Same Time?
We don’t want to spoil all of your fun. There are a few general rules you can follow to protect your teeth while enjoying these foods.
- Have the food item with a meal: When you’re eating a meal, the chewing force stimulates the highest level of saliva production at any point throughout the day. Saliva is our body’s best defense against acid, so if you enjoy your fruit or pickled vegetables with a meal, your risk for damage is lower.
- Chew gum immediately afterward: Another important way to stimulate saliva is chewing gum after having a “dangerous” snack. Make sure you choose sugar-free gum, and chew it for 20-30 minutes to neutralize the pH in your mouth.
- Chew gently: When chewing foods that could be hard in texture, using gentle chewing forces can reduce your risk of cracking a tooth. If you find yourself needing to squeeze your teeth together with a large amount of pressure, that should be your clue that this food is too hard to be safe.
- Chew slowly: With items like popcorn and tortilla chips that tend to wedge themselves between the teeth and gums, a slower chewing motion can help prevent the impact. The anatomy of your teeth and the motion of your lips, cheeks and tongue all work together to push food onto the biting surfaces of the teeth. When we chew too fast, we can override those protective factors. Chew slowly, and suffer less mouth injuries!
More Questions About Which Foods to Avoid for Great Dental Health?
Get in touch with Rockland Dental Specialists today to speak with one of our dental experts. We can assess your personal risk factors and help you make the best food choices for your teeth. Call us at (845) 259-2500 or complete our online contact form today!