The number one cause of tooth decay is from having a diet high in sugar, starches and carbohydrates. When you consume food and drinks with high concentration of these substances, bacteria found in the plaque within your mouth metabolizes these substances, creating an acidic byproduct that begins to deteriorate the tooth structure. The more you expose your teeth to these acids, the quicker they will eat through the tooth layers causing cavities that can significantly damage your teeth if not treated promptly.
There are other factors that contribute to tooth decay as well such as poor oral hygiene, chewing on hard objects and grinding your teeth to name a few, but food and drink are the main culprits to watch out for. To help in the fight against tooth decay, we have put together a list of foods and drinks that you should avoid as much as possible.
High Sugar Candy
This is probably the most obvious ones that we all know, but so many of us choose to ignore. Although candy may seem like a good idea because of its sweet taste, it is by far one of the worst things for your teeth. On top of being full of sugar, candies also tend to take a while to fully consume, meaning that it remains in your mouth for extended periods of time. So not only is there an excess amount of sugar in your mouth turning into tooth decaying acids, the sugar remains for far too long making it very difficult for your saliva to clear it away and re-balance the pH of your mouth.
Candies to really watch out for include:
- lollipops and other hard candy – these aren’t only high in sugar, they can also cause a tooth to crack or chip due to the hard nature of these candies.
- chewy candies like jelly beans – these types of candies won’t create a risk of breaking a tooth, but they will stick to your teeth for much longer than you expect. Since they stick to your tooth, it gives the tooth decaying acids produced a very long time to eat away at the enamel of your tooth.
- sour candies – sour candies can come in hard or chewy forms, but what makes them of extra concern is that they have even more variety of sugars and acids than other candies, making them your tooth enamels worst nightmare.
If you are trying to satisfy a sweet tooth craving, try eating something more natural like chocolate that will wash away with your saliva quickly after it is consumed.
Chewing on Ice
Although ice isn’t technically considered a food or drink, and it is made of water which is good for your teeth, it can actually contribute to tooth decay as well. So many people have the habit of chewing on ice, not realizing the risk associated with it. Due to it’s hard surface, chewing on ice can easily cause a broken tooth to happen, meaning a visit to an emergency dentist will be needed to get it fixed right away.
As mentioned above, when sugar and bacteria in your mouth mix, acids are produced which eat away at your tooth enamel. Well, citrus fruits are not only high in sugars, they are also highly acidic meaning that bacteria won’t even be needed, the acids themselves will be erode the enamel on your teeth. The two most detrimental, based on a dental erosion study, were grapefruits and lemons.
Although these types of fruits are good for your overall health due their high nutrient and vitamin C levels, only eat them in moderation and rinse your mouth once finished to wash away any citric acid residue.
Similar to citrus fruits, pickled vegetables are full of detrimental acids which can contribute to tooth decay. The pickling process requires the use of vinegar which is highly acidic and can erode tooth enamel. Like most things, picked vegetables in moderation will be ok for you, just don’t overdo it or you will be losing the battle against tooth decay.
This is another obvious one that we have all heard to watch out for at some point due to the high amounts of sugar usually present in carbonated drinks. What most people don’t realize about these drinks, however, is that there are detrimental acids inside of them that can actually be more harmful to your teeth than the sugars themselves.
Even those who think they are escaping this danger by drinking diet versions of these drinks are facing a high exposure to these detrimental acids since all diet sodas contain phosphoric and citric acids in them, further contributing to tooth decay.
On top of the sugars and acids inside of carbonated soft drinks, they are usually packed full of caffeine as well. Caffeine can further accelerate tooth decay by drying out your mouth, making it difficult for saliva to wash away all the tooth decaying acids and sugars that remain on your teeth.
Sports and Energy Drinks
If you think sports drinks and energy drinks are a healthy alternative to sodas, think again. Sugar is usually one of the main ingredients in these types of drinks making them just as high, and sometimes even higher, in sugar content than the sodas mentioned above. Even though they are advertised as healthy drinks, make it a habit to check the label of anything you eat or drink to verify the sugar content you will be ingesting.
Potato Chips and Other Crunchy Snacks
Not too many people know about this one and it just so happens to be one of the favorite snacks of Canadians. Chips and other crunchy snacks are very high in starches which metabolize into tooth decaying acids that stick to your teeth when mixed with bacteria in your mouth, very similar to sugar. These snacks also tend to get have tiny pieces that get stuck in between your teeth so if you are not a regular flosser it can mean that the acids will have plenty of time to break down tooth enamel in difficult to reach areas.
Many people think this is a great healthy snack to eat, and although it may seem this way, keep in mind that dried fruits have all the sugars that the same hydrated fruit will have but without all the water content. Not only will they have a higher concentration of sugar than their hydrated counterparts, they are also very sticky meaning they will stick to your teeth just like chewy candies, giving the sugars plenty of time to create tooth decaying acids.
Although the sugar and carbohydrate content in alcoholic drinks is not too much to be concerned about, the real worry with consuming alcohol is that it tends to dehydrate you. So as you drink alcohol, saliva secretion slows down making it difficult for your mouth to replenish any minerals that were lost on your teeth throughout the day and wash away any detrimental food debris.
White bread is very high in refined sugars and starches. When you chew white bread, it quickly turns into a sticky paste like substance which will get lodged in between your teeth. Since it is full of starches and sugars, tooth decaying acids will begin to form in no time.