For as long as humans have had teeth (which we believe to have been a very long time now), there’s been a need for some form of dental care. That’s because people consume everything through their mouths, and everything we eat and drink has some effect on our teeth, whether directly or indirectly.
Most foods and beverages cause plaque, which does plenty of damage to your teeth, especially when left untreated or in large quantities. Essentially, plaque is a bacteria-filled film that sticks to your teeth and contributes to tooth decay and gum disease, both of which are extremely unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs.
So anytime you eat a sugary snack or crack open a fizzy soda on a hot day, the sugars cause those bacteria to release acids, which attack your tooth’s enamel. When the enamel of your teeth breaks down, cavities are likely to form. So there’s your crash course in plaque (don’t worry, we’ll dedicate an entire blog post to the topic). But what foods and drinks are the absolute worst for your teeth?
Joseph F. DeSantis and Associates Family Dentistry in Chadds Ford, PA and Glen Mills, PA won’t leave you hanging! Today we’re going to run through the top 10 worst foods and drinks for your teeth in the hopes you avoid them as much as possible. And remember, at the very least, brush your teeth and make regular visits to the dentist!
OK, we’re going to start right here with the big stuff that you’ve likely already heard about from one source or another, but it can’t hurt to hear it again, especially from a dentist’s point of view. Sugary sodas are absolutely horrible for your teeth and that is incredibly true when consumed frequently and in large amounts.
A study found that heavy use of soft drinks can be as damaging to your teeth as hard drugs such as cocaine and meth. Plaque produces more acid to attack the tooth’s enamel because of the carbonation and soda is heavy with sugar and syrup to cause tooth decay. It can even discolor your teeth with dark sodas, not to mention drying out your mouth. Diet soda is no better for your teeth, so avoid them as well. Please stay away from soda, we’re begging you!
Despite what you might think about sports drinks due to the advertising and general belief that they are beneficial to your body because you drink them before, during or after physical activities, sports drinks are absolutely not healthy for your teeth!
Similar to soda, sports drinks are high in sugar (feel free to add in energy drinks here as well), so the plaque builds up and eats away at the enamel. Opt for low-sugar if you absolutely must, but water is a much better option — both for your teeth and body as a whole.
By its very nature, consuming alcohol is unhealthy. There are no physical or health benefits to alcohol and it does affect your brain. However, from a pure oral standpoint, drinking alcohol dries out your mouth, which creates a lack of saliva. We all need saliva to maintain the health of our teeth as is prevents food particles from sticking to your teeth and washes those food particles away.
Saliva can even assist in the repair of early signs of tooth decay, gum disease or other oral complications. Always make drinking plenty of water a priority and brush your teeth at least twice a day!
Coffee and Tea
In their purest forms, both coffee and tea can actually be quite healthy beverage choices for you. However, most of us rarely drink either in their purest form (we mean, lattes are sooo good!). Most people add sugar or sugary additives to coffee and tea, transforming them into unhealthy drinks for your teeth.
Again, the sugar causes plaque to build up on the enamel of — and between — your teeth to create cavities. Sticky teeth then pick up and hold onto everything in your mouth, making matters that much worse! Caffeinated tea and coffee dry out your mouth, causing less saliva and the problems stemming from low saliva that we mentioned above. So let’s agree to both drink more black coffee, deal?
As you’re probably catching onto by this point, foods and drinks that stick to the enamel of your teeth are just inherently bad for your oral health. The longer those food particles stick to your teeth, the more plaque builds up and the quicker the plaque breaks down the enamel.
So obviously, sticky foods are huge culprits, latching onto your beautiful, white teeth. While they chip away at the enamel of your teeth, they are also catching the particles of everything else going into your mouth, exponentially compounding the issue.
This is going to be one of those rare times when we tell you that water is not healthy for your mouth or teeth! Well, at least not in its frozen form. According to the American Dental Association, chewing on ice causes damage to your teeth as hard substances can chip away at the enamel, making you susceptible to emergencies such as chipped, cracked, broken teeth or loosened crowns. So drink your ice water, don’t chew it!
Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and lemons can be delicious and offer health benefits to your body in other ways thanks to being high in Vitamin C, however, part of what makes them citrus-y is their high levels of acid. As we’ve established earlier, acid erodes enamel, therefore making your teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay.
Adding citrus to your water or other beverages adds more acid to the drink, which will enhance its effects on your teeth. Citrus is not nearly as bad as soda or high-sugar drinks, but please be sure to enjoy them in moderation and follow up with a good brushing!
We’re pretty sure it’s safe to assume we’ve all been there before: getting that darn popcorn stuck in your teeth! Turns out, it’s not only annoying, but also incredibly harmful to your teeth. Because the popcorn gets stuck between your teeth, particles can remain there for a long time if not properly brushed or flossed.
As the particles remain, and the plaque builds up, your chance at cavities greatly booms! Worse yet, popcorn is often enjoyed with candy and/or soda, so you’re getting several of the worst foods and drinks for your teeth in one go. Excuse us while we go sit in a corner and shiver at the very thought.
Working on the same concept as chewing ice from before, but greatly compounding your issues by throwing sugar in the mix as well, hard candy is an absolutely terrible treat when it comes to your teeth!
Eating the hard candy allows sugar to build in your mouth and create an environment to grow and thrive to cause tooth decay and cavities. While the hard surface of the candy beats away at the surface-level enamel of your teeth. When your teeth have weak enamel, then tooth decay works more rapidly. That’s not a double-whammy you should want!
As oddly satisfying as the crunch of potato chips can be, they are another super unhealthy snack for your teeth. Much like popcorn, chips are easily stuck in your teeth due to their starchy makeup.
Chip particles cake in the gaps between your teeth and sit there to create plaque buildup that can only be removed with thorough brushing and flossing as well as professional dental cleanings at your local dentist.
We understand that there is no truly effective way to avoid all harmful foods and drinks from your diet. Shoot, even we as dentists enjoy and a nice carbonated drink or sugary treat from time to time. The important thing to remember is the kind of advice that goes for most things — they’re best enjoyed in moderation. And of course, please brush and floss every day, twice a day at minimum (but seriously, brush after every meal!).
On top of that, and most important of all, Joseph F. DeSantis and Associates Family Dentistry in Chadds Ford and Glen Mills, PA strongly encourages you to visit your dentist regularly for a routine dental cleaning and complete checkup. It is recommended by the American Dental Association that you see the dentist at least every six months to keep your teeth clean and healthy as well as addressing or preventing any other issues that may arise. Schedule your dental cleaning and checkup with us today!