A lot of us are making resolutions to live a little healthier at this time of year. It’s a great time to consider not only our overall health but also to think about our dental health and choices we can make to take better care of our teeth. This includes both foods and drinks to avoid as well as changes involving alcohol, tobacco and drug use.
What Are the Worst Foods for My Teeth?
With help from the American Dental Association, we’ve put together a list of some of the foods that are worst for your teeth. We also have some suggestions for minimizing the impact of these treats when you do decide to indulge.
- Hard candy: hard candy is one of the worst choices you can make for your teeth because it means constant exposure to sugar. If you need a treat, a piece of chocolate is actually a much better choice since it doesn’t linger on the teeth in the same way, and dark chocolate has a lower sugar content. Sugar-free gum is another good option.
- Citrus and citrus drinks: citrus fruits are packed with Vitamin C, but they also contain acids that can damage enamel. Citrus fruits and orange juice are fine in moderation, but be careful not to overdo it, and avoid putting orange juice in your little one’s sippy cup where it comes in direct contact with her teeth.
- Coffee and tea: these favorite beverages do have positive health benefits but be sure to enjoy them in moderation and don’t add too much sugar. Coffee and tea can also stain teeth if you drink too much.
- Sticky foods: as the name implies, sticky foods like candy and dried fruits stick to your teeth. Gummy candies are a pet peeve for many dentists since they linger on teeth and can get stuck on dental work. While dried fruits are healthy in moderation, be sure to brush and floss after eating.
- Crunchy high-carb snack foods: our favorite salty snacks like chips and pretzels are likely to leave particles stuck between teeth and turn into plaque. Flossing is an excellent way to get rid of the gunk that gets stuck after a high-carb snack. Or better yet, get your crunch from a veggie snack like celery or carrots.
- Soda: another nemesis for dentists, sodas not only have tons of sugar, they are also acidic, so even low calorie versions can damage teeth. Sports drinks also contain plenty of sugar, so we recommend choosing water whenever possible for both adults and children.
How to Minimize the Damage from Tooth Unfriendly Foods and Drinks
We’re not saying that it’s not okay to have a soda every now and then. One suggestion is to make a choice to have an occasional soft drink when out but don’t keep them around the home. What we do advise is that when you do make a choice to indulge in a sugary treat or beverage take a few simple steps to decrease the damage to your teeth. Here are a few suggestions:
Brush and/or floss right after eating or drinking when possible.
- Drink water after indulging, especially when your toothbrush isn’t on hand.
- Keep dental floss in your desk or purse. It’s easy to use anywhere and more portable than a toothbrush.
- Enjoy the foods and beverages listed above in moderation and choose healthier options as often as you can.
Other Substances That Can Impact Oral Health
- Alcohol: if you drink alcohol, be sure to consume in moderation. Too much alcohol can lead to dehydration and limit saliva production. This increases your chances of tooth decay and gum disease. Alcohol has also been linked to mouth cancer according to the ADA.Tobacco: As we’ve shared in the past, quitting tobacco use is one of the most important things you can do for your oral health. Both smoking and smokeless tobacco are linked to gum disease and oral cancer. If you want to quit and need help, your family dentist can help you get started.
- Illegal Drugs: according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, oral health problems are one of the most prevalent problems associated with drug addiction. According to the study, there’s a growing body of evidence that shows oral health problems associated with all categories of illegal drugs, including opiates, cannabis, hallucinogens, cocaine and amphetamine-type stimulants, and so-called club drugs like MDMA and ketamine. These problems can result both from direct impact of the substances on the tissues of the mouth and from poor hygiene and carelessness associated with addiction.
- Prescription Drugs: Many prescription drugs can have an impact on oral health. Dry mouth and low saliva production are one of the most common side effects of many prescription medications and can cause tooth decay. That’s why it’s so important to let your dentist know about the prescription drugs you’re taking. You can also let your doctor know if you have oral health symptoms related to prescription medications.
Creating Healthy Habits at Greenhill Family Dental Care
As dentists, our role isn’t to judge but to help our patients keep their teeth and mouths healthy and develop good habits. This includes improving nutrition for oral and overall health and avoiding using harmful substances, both legal and illegal. We encourage our patients to be honest about food habits as well as alcohol and tobacco use and let us know about prescription medications. For patients with a history of illegal drug use, letting your dentist know can also help us make a plan for oral health recovery. At Greenhill Dental, we want to help our patients prevent dental problems and resolve the ones they have, moving forward with a healthy and mindful approach to dental care.