Diet is an important aspect of good oral health. Beyond brushing and flossing every night, it’s also good to understand which foods are doing the most damage to your teeth, and how to lessen or avoid that damage altogether. As you shop, it always pays off to check labels for high sugar content, high levels of acid, or ingredients you’ve never heard of, but here are some tips from Dr. Dennis Flanagan at Dennis J. Flanagan DDS MS about foods to watch out for. It is always best to be mindful of what goes into your body!
Which Foods are the Worst for Enamel
Sugary drinks and sodas are harmful to enamel. However, some products aren’t as obvious as others. Healthy teeth can be damaged by sports drinks. As a matter of fact, the term “erode” is more appropriate, especially when wearing braces. By demineralizing your teeth, these drinks reduce the minerals in the outer enamel and dentin (dentin is yellowish, calcified tissue under the enamel). The enamel underneath the braces covered by the brackets is not affected.
Erosion of the teeth is common. Due to acidic destruction of enamel and dentin, tooth structure is lost. Acidic substances like sports drinks, sodas, and candy can cause dental erosion. Everyone knows about candy and soda. Sports drinks, on the other hand, are not thrown into this group of tooth killers. When citrus flavoring is added to energy drinks and some flavored waters, they can be just as harmful as those that contain caffeine.
Another thing that can dissolve enamel quickly is alcohol. Most alcoholic drinks are very high in acid content, and mixed drinks made with soda or fruit juices typically have the most. As we discussed, if left on the teeth too long, acid can erode the enamel,and increase your risk of disease-causing bacteria.
Additionally, your alcoholic drink of choice most likely has sugar in it. Sugar is bacteria’s best friend because bacteria feed on the sugar left on your teeth and leave acid behind. Additionally, many wines and spirits contain dyes that can stain your teeth. Avoid colorful drinks and red wines to keep your teeth bright and healthy.
Surprisingly Sugary Foods to Avoid
Foods that are hidden culprits of high sugar often seem healthy. For example, smoothies out and about are deceptively sugary. In many situations, what seems like just blended fruit and ice may not be a healthy drink. Menus at popular national smoothie bar chains often contain over double the recommended daily sugar intake. As you watch them make the drinks, notice few only use fresh or frozen fruit. Most use sugar flavored fruit syrups from a bottle that contain high amounts of sugar.
Like smoothies, juices also tend to have more than the recommended daily sugar content. All too often juices at the grocery contain names and photos of healthy fruits, and in reality have very little of those fruits in them. Processed sugar is often a top ingredient in these fruity drinks. Just because a drink on your grocer’s shelf has the name of a fruit in its title does not necessarily make it a healthy choice.
Another item you wouldn’t consider necessarily full of sugar are prepackaged lunches. These products are certainly convenient, but aren’t really a healthy option, especially to eat consistently. Often, foods with preservatives and highly processed snack foods actually have a wealth of sugar. The varieties that include both a dessert and a drink are double trouble.
Granola is another prime example of a food that is usually advertised and lauded as a healthy choice. But, granola contains sugary coatings used to keep clusters together and mask the “blander” tastes of the fibrous foods that actually offer a benefit. Limit your granola to a small amount mixed with yogurt and choose wheat-based cereals over their granola-sugar-laden brother. Read the labels to determine sugar content before you buy.