On a night out, the last thing you’re likely thinking about is the bacteria in your mouth feeding off of the glass of wine you had with dinner or the ice cream you ate for dessert.
When it comes to dental hygiene, what you consume throughout the day is just as important as brushing and flossing your teeth. Here, we’ve collected a list of the top 10 foods and drinks that hurt your teeth. Some are worse for your teeth than others, but what it really comes down to is the amount of plaque that builds up when you consume them.
What Is Plaque? Why Is It Bad for Your Teeth?
Plaque is a sticky bacteria-filled film that constantly builds on your teeth. Just as you enjoy sugary foods and drinks, bacteria love it too, feeding off the sugars and producing acids that attack your tooth enamel.
Constant attacks can lead to:
- Cavities: One of the most common chronic diseases, cavities are areas of your teeth that develop tiny holes, causing symptoms like toothaches, tooth sensitivity and pain when chewing.
- Tartar: Plaque can eventually harden and form tartar, which requires a visit with your dental hygienist to remove. Without daily brushing and flossing tartar will build up faster.
- Gum disease: With a buildup of bacteria, plaque and tartar, you’re more susceptible to gum disease, like gingivitis. Gingivitis is an early reversible form of gum disease with symptoms like red, swollen and possibly bloody gums.
- Chronic bad breath: We all are subject to bad breath from time to time, but continual bad breath may be the result of a buildup of bacteria in the mouth.
Brushing and flossing your teeth helps prevent the buildup of plaque. There are other preventative measures, too, like avoiding some common foods and drinks that will hurt your teeth over time.
Foods That Cause Plaque on Teeth
Plaque is extremely normal and common. But, some foods are more prone to plaque buildup than others. To begin our list of the top 10 foods that are bad for your teeth, we have:
1. Sour Candies
The fun and inviting bright colors of sour candies are hard to say no to. Although packed with flavor, they also come with a high level of acid — some coming close to the pH level of battery acid.
Certain candies, like gummy bears and chewy fruit snacks, stick to your teeth and cause longer acid attacks. The same is true with candies you hold in your mouth, like hard candies or lollipops. If you indulge in a sour treat, be sure to brush your teeth afterward, but wait about an hour for your enamel to solidify.
2. Dried Fruits
Fresh fruits contain a high amount of natural sugar, but dried fruits have a different story. The drying process strips almost the entirety of the fruit’s water and releases none of the sugar. In fact, it releases the intrinsic sugars, meaning there are even more sugars feeding off your teeth’s enamel.
As if that wasn’t enough sugar, common distributors of store-bought dried fruits add more to their produce. Most dried fruits, like cranberries and mangos, are also very sticky. As we learned with sour candies, sticky plus sugary doesn’t add up to a healthy tooth.
Maybe a surprising food to be included on this list, bread is full of starches that the enzymes in your saliva break down into sugars. If these sugars stay on your teeth for too long, they can have the same negative effects as the more notoriously-harmful foods, like candies.
The same goes for other starchy foods, like pasta and rice. Be cautious when eating tomorrow’s breakfast of freshly toasted, crunchy bread, as it can lead to other damages from putting excessive pressure on your teeth.
4. Potato Chips
The satisfying crunch of a potato chip comes with the not so satisfying risk of plaque buildup. Another food high in starch, potato chips can easily get trapped between teeth, making the bacteria that feed off the chip harder to reach and remove.
Depending on the flavor of chips, such as the popular salt and vinegar, there is an added risk factor of high acidity levels. Like the effects of sour candies, this greatly enhances the chance of tooth erosion.
Drinks That Hurt Your Teeth
The drinks that pass your lips can have an equally, if not more, harmful effect as the foods that hurt your teeth. Some drinks to be more cautious about when consuming include:
5. Carbonated Drinks
A double-whammy, carbonated drinks have high levels of acidity and sugar that erode your enamel over time. Soda, one of the more popular types of carbonated beverages, is particularly harmful due to the excessive sugary syrup used for flavoring.
Even sparkling water is more deceiving than it’s sugarless appearance. The carbonation reduces the levels of saliva in your mouth, therefore decreasing the natural washing away of food particles and bacteria.
A morning breakfast of toasted bread often accompanies a cup of coffee, which is also harmful for your teeth. Coffee erodes your enamel and stains your teeth, resulting in increased damage and yellowing over time. Also, some people prefer sugary lattes and iced coffees, only increasing the risk of cavities.
7. Fruit Juices
As we mentioned, fruit contains a high amount of natural sugars. So, it’s no surprise that fruit juices contain an incredibly high amount of those same sugars. Some companies pack even more sugar to alter these natural flavors or create a similar-tasting artificial juice, adding to the risk of plaque buildup.
Foods That Can Crack Your Teeth
The thought of developing cavities through harmful foods and drinks can send a shiver up your spine — but what about foods that can crack your teeth? No matter how many times you brush and floss, there are other foods bad for your teeth, like:
A movie theater favorite, popcorn is an addicting soft and fluffy treat. How can this seemingly harmless food crack your teeth?
It’s not the popped kernel that causes the damage — it’s the remaining unpopped kernels. As your eyes are fixated on the movie, you risk a surprising tooth chip or crack if you bite down too hard on one of these kernels, turning your trip to the movie theater into an emergency trip to the dentist.
9. Ice Cubes
Ice is another seemingly harmless food, and some people enjoy chewing on ice cubes to ease nausea or cool down during the summer months. Chewing on ice cubes can cause microscopic cracks that get larger over time, making your teeth gradually more sensitive to cold and warm temperatures.
Almonds are a healthy snack and offer a satisfying crunch. However, hard nuts can break or splinter and could uncomfortably split your teeth.
Like other hard nuts, almonds have a hard outer shell. Sometimes, if not separated carefully, a sliver of this outer shell can unknowingly make its way into a handful of almonds, possibly resulting in an unfortunate and painful surprise.
Schedule an Appointment at Dental Choice for Personalized Dentistry
At Dental Choice, we strive to deliver compassionate and quality dentistry to our patients. With regular dental cleanings, we can help prevent plaque buildup’s negative effects and give you peace of mind if you indulge in a sweet treat or cup of coffee every now and again. Request an appointment today, or contact us if you have any questions on our restorative dentistry treatments or dental cleaning services.
Sources used for information:
Why Professional Teeth Whitening May Be the Choice for You
The Tongue — A Forgotten Part of Mouth Care