Protecting teeth from the damage that causes cavities is really a two-part job. One part is preventive. It includes fortifying your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing between the teeth. That should be standard procedure with you and your family members! Another part is avoiding food and drink that can weaken and damage the tooth enamel. In today’s world, that means avoiding sugary and acidic foods, both of which can accelerate tooth damage and decay. And boy, are there a LOT of sugary and acidic drinks and foods these days!
What Sugar Does to Your Mouth
Sugary foods, including starches and carbohydrates like potato chips, promote harmful, plaque-forming bacteria in the mouth. Sugar also modifies the pH levels of your saliva, making it more acidic. The result of eating sugary foods that stick to teeth begins with changes in the mouth and can lead to faster plaque formation.
Some of the worst sugar bombs for your teeth include:
- Baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and brownies
- Potato chips
- Hard candies
- Caramel, nougat, and other sticky candies
- Chewy candy, like fruit rollups and licorice
- Sugar added to coffee
We all enjoy a sweet treat on occasion, but if you have a sweet tooth, consider the repeated effect of sugar on your tooth enamel. Keep in mind that if you eat or drink a lot of nutritious foods, you are less likely to crave foods with high sugar content.
Acid Weakens Tooth Enamel
Sugar turns the mouth into a more acidic environment, and acid eventually eats into the surfaces it touches. In addition, acidic beverages and foods, such as juice, energy drinks, fruit, and soda can all have a negative effect on your tooth enamel. If you have sensitive teeth, you may find that acidic foods and drinks cause increased sensitivity. That is a sign that you may want to limit your acidic intake.
Even if you don’t have sensitive teeth, it’s important to be aware of these acidic beverages and foods:
- Energy drinks
- Sparkling water
- Fruit punch
- Tomatoes and tomato juice
- Vinegar-heavy foods, such as sauerkraut
While certain treats can erode teeth over time, we don’t recommend stopping eating nutrition-packed foods, such as fruit and salads. The nutritional value of those foods makes them worth eating. In fact, citrus fruit is high in Vitamin C, which is great for your teeth, gums, and overall health and immunity. Despite its acidity, fruit should continue to be part of your healthy diet.
Act Quickly to Protect Your Teeth
If you are not able to brush your teeth right after eating sugary or acidic foods and drinks, you can do a quick swish with plain water. Rinsing your teeth can help rebalance the pH in your mouth and wash off the acidic or sticky sugar residue. Plus, if you rinse with fluoridated water, you benefit from exposure to fluoride, as well.
Another option available to help keep bacteria at bay is to chew on sugar-free gum after eating or drinking acidic foods and sugary treats. Chewing gum helps produce more saliva, bringing the natural pH inside your mouth into balance more quickly. Even candies that contain the sugar substitute Xylitol can help keep the harmful bacteria at bay. Xylitol, which is often derived from birch bark, interferes with plaque-forming bacteria.
Ready to take control of your oral health? Review our guide to oral health and contact us for an appointment. We’ll help you take care of your teeth with regular cleanings in addition to the daily care you perform on your teeth. Together, we can keep your smile bright and healthy!