They say you are what you eat. And you can see that in no better place than your mouth. That’s because many foods and beverages can cause plaque buildup, which can have serious health effects on your teeth.
Plaque is a bacteria-filled sticky film that contributes to gum disease and tooth decay. After you eat a sugary snack or meal, the sugars cause the bacteria to release acids that attack tooth enamel. When the enamel breaks down, cavities can develop.
Cavities cause complications like pain, chewing problems, and tooth abscesses.
And if you don’t brush or floss your teeth, your plaque will harden and turn into tartar. Tartar above the gums can lead to gingivitis, an early form of gum disease.
How can you prevent plaque from wreaking havoc on your mouth? Besides brushing your teeth at least twice a day, and flossing and visiting a dentist regularly, try to avoid or limit the foods below.
1. Sour candies
It’s usually not surprising that candy is unhealthy for your mouth. But sour candy contains more and different kinds of acids that are tougher on your teeth.
Plus, because they’re chewy, they stick to your teeth for a longer time, so they’re more likely to cause decay. If you crave sweets, grab a square of chocolate instead, which you can chew quickly and wash away easily.
Many may know that drinking alcohol isn’t exactly healthy. But did you know that when you drink, you dry out your mouth? A dry mouth lacks saliva, which we need to keep teeth healthy.
Saliva prevents food from sticking to your teeth and washes away food particles. It even helps repair early signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral infections. To help keep your mouth hydrated, drink plenty of water and use fluoride rinses and oral hydration solutions.
Think twice as you walk down the supermarket bread aisle. When you chew bread, your saliva breaks down the starches into sugar. When the bread becomes a gummy paste-like substance in your mouth, it sticks to the crevices between teeth. So, that can cause cavities.
When you crave some carbs, aim for less-refined varieties like whole wheat. These contain less added sugars and they don’t break down easily.
4. Carbonated drinks
Many people might know that little, if any, good comes from soda or pop, even if it’s got the word “diet” on the can. An older studyTrusted Source even found that drinking large quantities of carbonated soda could damage your teeth as much as using methamphetamine and crack cocaine.
Carbonated sodas enable plaque to produce more acid to attack tooth enamel. So, if you sip soda all day, you essentially coat your teeth in acid. Plus, it dries out your mouth, meaning you have less saliva.
And last but not least, dark-colored sodas can discolor or stain your teeth. A note: Don’t brush your teeth immediately after drinking a soda. This could actually hasten decay.
All it contains is water, so it’s fine to chew ice, right? Not so, according to the American Dental Association. Chewing on a hard substance can damage enamel and make you susceptible to dental emergencies such as chipped, cracked, or broken teeth, or loose crowns.
You can use your ice to chill beverages, but it’s a good idea not to chew on it. To resist the urge, opt for chilled water or drinks without ice.
BONUS: Citrus and Potato Chips
Oranges, grapefruits, and lemons can be tasty as both fruits and juices, and they have a lot of vitamin C. But their acid content can erode enamel, making teeth more vulnerable to decay. Even squeezing a lemon or lime into water adds acid to a drink.
The crunch of a potato chip may be satisfying to many of us. But the chips have a lot of starch. The starch becomes sugar that gets trapped on and between the teeth and feeds the bacteria in the plaque.