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The Most Harmful Foods for Dental Health

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It’s easy to get caught up in the habit of snacking.  You’re having a long day, your children are hungry, and so you grab something easy for them to eat in the car while you finish running errands.  A few packets of fruit snacks or bags of goldfish won’t do instant damage, however it’s good to be aware of just how often you resort to feeding both you and the little ones these kinds of sugary foods.  For their dental health, it’s good to know what happens when those sticky food particles stay on teeth for too long.  Here is a look at potentially harmful foods (and beverages) that you should try to keep to a minimum in your family’s diet:

Drink Up

            There’s nothing more wholesome than starting your child’s day off with a glass of orange juice—or is there?  While oranges, grapefruits and lemons are all a wonderful source of vitamin C, they are also very acidic which can be detrimental to teeth.  This is not to say stop serving orange juice with your eggs and pancakes, but rather to make sure that you   brush after breakfast.  Also, take a look at the sugars in your orange juice.  The average glass contains only 10 grams less of sugar than orange soda!  So  give juicing a try.  The orange juice will be fresh and delicious without all of those unneeded (and damaging) grams of sugar.

Coffee, while also a very acidic beverage, is known mostly for its staining power.  Studies have shown that coffee stains can sometimes be even more stubborn than those caused by tobacco use!  Stains themselves seem more like an aesthetic problem, however what you may not know is that heavily stained teeth can become almost sticky in texture making them more prone to bacteria build-up and, eventually, decay.

Soda and other carbonated drinks are easy to reach for throughout the day when you want a little boost of caffeine. All parents know to keep sugar to a minimum in their children’s diets, but when it comes to soda, sugar isn’t necessarily the biggest tooth decay offender.  Many assume that if they’re drinking diet soda  that they’re saving their teeth, however these lower calorie options are just as harmful.  All soda, even diet and low calorie, contains both citric and phosphoric acid.  These acids   do the real damage by eroding the enamel on your teeth.  It’s best to keep your soda consumption as simply a mealtime treat.  This will limit your mouth’s overall exposure to the harmful acids.

As kids get older, it becomes more and more common for them to reach for sports and energy drinks for electrolyte replenishment after a soccer game or a boost of caffeine after a long school day.  Don’t run out and stock up on these just yet though, as they are more harmful than soda. Look for some natural electrolyte supplements instead, or choose the sports drink with the least amount of sugar to help keep your kids energized throughout the day.

None of these beverages need to be eliminated from your diet in order to keep your teeth healthy, however it might be good to talk to your dentist.  Find out what your mouth’s weakness is and learn if there are certain things that you should try to avoid more than others.

Snack Attack

            When it’s late afternoon and the satisfaction of lunch is starting to wear off, it’s tempting to reach for the easiest thing in the pantry: a can of Pringles,   goldfish, a handful of crackers.  What you may not realize is that starchy foods like these are full of refined carbohydrates.  You wouldn’t think it, but carbohydrates can actually be quite bad for your teeth because when chewed, crackers and chips become like a paste.  This paste then adheres itself to every nook and cranny of your teeth’s surfaces.  This paste, when left, begins to break down and erode your teeth’s enamel.  So next time you want to snack on a bag of chips, make sure you floss and brush shortly after to ensure that refined carbohydrate paste doesn’t get stuck and have an opportunity to cause harm.

 

Sweet Tooth

            Chewy candies such as taffy, caramels, gummy bears, and fruit snacks are, of course, not the healthiest choice for your teeth.  They’re sticky and and sink down between your teeth allowing bacteria to grow.  This bacterium then utilizes the sugar in the stuck candy to produce acid.  It’s the acid that then dissolves the protective tooth enamel and causes a cavity.   Sour candies are also harmful.  Since these candies are already covered in acid (what gives them their mouth-puckering flavor), they speed up the process of tooth-harming decay making them the most dangerous of chewy candies.

Hard candy may seem like a less harmful way to satisfy your sweet tooth, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  Since hard candy is sucked on rather than chewed, it stays in your mouth for longer periods of time, giving it a chance to coat your teeth in sugar as it dissolves.  This gives bacteria a chance to grow and produce more acid since the candy is in your mouth longer.  Also, hard candies have lots of citric acid, so they’re primed to begin the erosion process.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19083423

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/best-worst-foods-teeth/story?id=19085884#11

http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/ss/slideshow-teeth-wreckers

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