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. Learning what to eat to prevent tooth decay can help keep your teeth from decaying and you mouth and oral health in great shape.
The first place a poor diet and poor nutrition is noticed will be in your mouth.
At Advanced Dental Aesthetics in Southend, Essex, we thought it would be useful for our dental patients to know about what foods and drinks to avoid and what alternatives will help your oral and overall health and wellbeing.
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 foodsfeeds 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.
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.
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:
The minute you put food or a sip of a drink into your mouth, your saliva goes to work breaking the substance down and preparing your body to digest it. The bacteria in your mouth convert dietary sugar into acids to break down your teeth’s enamel. The more you consume sugary foods and drinks, the more you leave your mouth exposed to decay-causing acids.
Like your saliva, water washes the acid and sugars off your teeth. Water also has fluoride in it. Fluoride is a mineral you find in toothpaste and sometimes mouthwash that protects you against tooth erosion. It naturally occurs in all tap water in the UK.
Milk, plain yogurt, cheese and other dairy products help produce saliva, especially cheese. The calcium in cheese and the phosphates in milk help restore teeth minerals other foods may have caused you to lose.
Green tea has polyphenols in it to interact with the bacteria-induced plaque. They either hold back or kill bacteria, preventing the growth or production of teeth-attacking acid. You may also get some fluoride, depending on the water you brew your tea with. Darker teas, on the other hand, contain tannins, which can cause stains.
Green, Leafy Vegetables
Not only healthy for your body, green, leafy veggies like kale are also good for your teeth. Greens, spinach, and other leafy-green vegetables also require you to chew more, which produces more saliva — your teeth’s natural lubricant, tasked with “washing” your teeth.
Fluoridated water or foods you use fluoridated water to make help your teeth. Some examples are:
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.