The worst foods and drinks for your teeth

If you’ve heard that candy rots your teeth; or your habit of eating one (or two or three) meals a day will wear down your enamel, you may be wondering what other foods, drinks, meals and snacks could be harmful for your teeth. While technically all foods and drinks can cause tooth decay – or damage the surface or enamel of your teeth – not every food or drink is equally harmful. and some people are more prone to tooth decay than others.

Here are the things you need to keep in mind when taking care of your oral health.

Dr Apoena de Aguiar Ribeiro, a pediatric dentist and microbiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who worked on the study, said: “When assessing the impact of a meal, snack, desserts or drinks for your oral health. Oral microbiota and how it affects caries: Its composition and quality.

Inside our mouths are more than 700 species of bacteria – some helpful, some harmful. Harmful bacteria break down sugars from foods and drinks and turn them into acids, which over time can pull essential minerals from your teeth and lead to tooth decay.

If you’re not careful in cleaning, bacteria can also form a soft film, or plaque, on the surface of your teeth, which can exacerbate that acidity and create an ideal environment for your teeth. more bacteria multiply. If your dental plaque grows and hardens enough, it can turn into tartar, which can also irritate gums and cause gingivitis.

Dr. de Aguiar Ribeiro said: “Sugar foods – and especially, those with sucrose, or table sugar as an ingredient – ​​are especially bad for your teeth because harmful bacteria thrive on them. You can often find sucrose in many processed foods and sugary drinks such as candy, cakes, fruit juice concentrates, and soft drinks.

Also, any foods that are sticky, pasty, or chewy — like gum, dried fruit, syrups, and candies — will get stuck in the nooks and crannies of your teeth and the spaces between them. When excess sugar settles on your teeth, harmful bacteria can store it in their cells, “like a pantry inside them,” says Dr. de Aguiar Ribeiro. continues to produce acid for many hours after you eat.

Certain beverages — like sugary soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, and milkshakes — are also serious offenders. They rinse your teeth in sticky and sugary solutions, and they’re acidic to boot. “Our teeth start to break down when the acidity of the mouth drops below a pH of 5.5,” says Dr. Rocio Quinonez, professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. pH around 3 to 4”

Other carbonated beverages such as soft drinks are also acidic. Coffee and alcoholic beverages, too, are often drunk with sugary syrups and mixers.

Certain fresh fruits, vegetables or starchy foods – like citrus, potatoes, rice or even bananas – are generally not good for your teeth because they may contain sugars or acids that can wear down your teeth. But they also contain nutrients that boost your overall health, which in turn can benefit your teeth, says Dr. Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, a dentist at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a physician. the study of cariology, or the study of caries and dentistry that indicates putrefaction. Even if they’re foods that are sugary or tend to get stuck in your teeth — that trade-off can be worth it, she says.

If you have particularly deep grooves in your teeth, or teeth that are in close contact, chewy and sticky foods can worry you more than anything else, Dr. Quinonez adds. In that case, you should pay more attention to not only your diet but also your cleaning habits.

As long as you brush your teeth twice a day – once in the morning and once before going to bed – and floss every day, the nutrition of those foods outweighs the risk of damage to your teeth. . Although when it comes to fruit, says Dr. Kopycka-Kedzierawski, “it’s better to eat fruit than drink” because many store-bought or even homemade fruit smoothies have added sucrose.

The good news is that in addition to regular brushing and flossing, you can use several other scientific strategies to keep your oral health in check.

Avoid snacking and nibbling. Saliva, which helps remove leftover food particles, is one of your teeth’s protective forces. It remineralizes and strengthens tooth enamel, and contains bicarbonate, which helps neutralize the acidity in your mouth.

But whenever you eat or drink, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for saliva to rise to a protective level, so snacking or drinking frequently can cause an imbalance, Dr. Quinonez says.

If you absolutely must drink that sugary beverage, try drinking it with a meal, or in one sitting rather than crouching all day, says Dr. Quinonez: “I’d rather you be a drinker than that. not a drinker.” She adds, drinking water after eating a food or drink can also help flush the sugar out.

Limit alcohol intake. Heavy drinkers should also be careful, because alcohol can inhibit the regular secretion of saliva, making it difficult for the body to clean the residue on the teeth.

Be aware of certain conditions or side effects of medications. Various medical conditions, treatments, and medications — like tuberculosis, chemotherapy, dialysis, antihistamines, and blood pressure medications — can inhibit saliva production or change the quality of your saliva. . Therefore, those affected should be vigilant about practicing good oral hygiene.

Exchange sugar alternatives. Dr de Aguiar Ribeiro said: “Switching sugary drinks and snacks to sugar-free alternatives is a great move for your teeth. Sugar substitutes like aspartame or sugar alcohols aren’t metabolized by bacteria like regular sugar is, so they don’t contribute to tooth decay. But keep in mind that the acids in diet soda will still cause some demineralization of your teeth.

Chew sugar-free gum with xylitol. Similarly, Dr. de Aguiar Ribeiro added, “sugar alcohols such as xylitol have antibacterial activity” that can slow down the acid production of oral bacteria. “Sugar-free gum with xylitol, when chewed three times a day, Proven to increase your saliva flow, and also have antibacterial effects,” she says. So if you’re craving something sweet between meals, sugar-free xylitol gum is one of your best bets.

Drink some tea. There is also evidence that Black and green tea can help prevent tooth decay, as they contain fluoride and have a higher pH. “But please don’t add sugar,” added Dr. de Aguiar Ribeiro.

Regular health check-ups. Tooth decay is most common non-communicable diseases all around the world. For most people, says Dr. Kopycka-Kedzierawski, a routine dental exam every six months is enough to detect any cavities before it becomes too serious. Seeing a specialist is important, because once the decay has formed enough for you to notice it, you have caries.

Quinonez says habits that are good for your oral health are often the ones that are good for your health. Eating less processed and sugary foods, getting a checkup every six months, and avoiding snacking between meals – especially if the snack is a sugary or sticky food or drink – can bring profit back. You don’t have to think too much about it, she adds.

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