Food is one of life’s great joys. Perhaps the best reason to maintain a healthy mouth is so that you can enjoy scrumptious snacks and delicious dishes. At our Houston dental practice, Dr. Cindy Flanagan and our team help patients improve every aspect of their smiles. Since you expose your teeth and gums to food when you eat and drink, it should come as no surprise that what you consume impacts your dental health. You probably realize that what you eat affects your teeth, but how? Which foods should you avoid, and which might actually benefit your oral hygiene? In the following blog, Dr. Flanagan answers these questions and more.
How Food Affects Your Teeth
The old adage is “you are what you eat.” When it comes to your mouth, it would be more accurate to say, “what you eat covers your teeth.” The particulate matter and debris from the food you consume can cling to your teeth and form a sticky layer called plaque. In addition to giving your teeth a less-than-appealing appearance, plaque contains bacteria, which feed on the remnants of your food and, in exchange, produce acid that erodes your enamel. Even apart from the plaque formation process, certain foods can directly damage your tooth surface, discoloring it, denting it, or wearing it down.
What Not to Nosh On
We’ll start with the bad news: the foods you should try to avoid munching on if you can. The following fare can have a negative impact on your dental health:
- Hard candies. As their name implies, these treats are sweet (more likely to get stuck to your teeth, plus more attractive to bacteria) and brittle (putting your teeth at risk for cracks if you crunch too hard on them).
- Dark beverages, especially coffees, teas, and sodas can stain your teeth. If this occurs, we can assist with our teeth whitening treatments, but, as we often say, prevention is the best medicine.
- Ice. As the American Dental Association notes: “ice is for chilling, not chewing. You’d be surprised at how many people think ice is good for their teeth.” It is true that “it’s made of water…and doesn’t contain any sugar or other additives.” However, ice can put you at risk for toothy trauma in the form of fractures, chips, or dents. As the ADA points out: “chewing on hard substances can leave your teeth vulnerable to a dental emergency and damage enamel.”
- Acidic fruits and vegetables. You might think that oranges, lemons, limes, and tomatoes are good for your mouth. It’s true that these can be part of a healthy diet, but they’re not the best for your mouth. Their acids can directly damage your enamel. The ADA explains: “the truth is that frequent exposures to acidic foods can erode enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay over time.”
These are just a few of the foods you might want to minimize in your diet. Dr. Flanagan can advise you further at your next preventive care appointment (reminder: if you haven’t seen us in six months or more, you need to!). Of course, if certain dietary habits have already caused decay, we can also provide tooth-colored fillings to beautifully restore your smile.
Were a few of your favorites on the not-so-good list? Never fear; there are plenty of smile-friendly snack options, too. Some of our favorite tasty, tooth-boosting foods include:
- Cheese. Feta fanatics, swiss aficionados, and cheddar lovers unite! Cheese could actually be quite beneficial for your teeth. Health magazine points out: “milk and other dairy products are the primary dietary source of calcium, which is essential for healthy teeth…dairy products—especially cheese—also contain casein, a type of protein….[that can] play an important role in stabilizing and repairing tooth enamel.”
- Spinach. It turns out that Popeye had the right idea! Spinach is packed with vitamins and, most importantly for your teeth, fiber. According to Health, “eating a bowl of spinach…is a bit like running your teeth through a car wash. All that chewing generates saliva, and the food itself physically scrubs your teeth as it’s mashed up into little pieces.” Plus, it pairs nicely with calcium-rich cheese!
- Strawberries. Perhaps you can switch out your daily oranges for a sweet bowl of strawberries! Health explains: “these summer berries contain malic acid, a natural enamel whitener.”
- Water. While its frozen form’ is not recommended for crunching, liquid water is excellent for your teeth (and your entire body!). Staying hydrated prevents dry mouth and allows for a healthy saliva flow, which is crucial to your oral health. Your spit serves as a natural mouthwash, washing away debris, and contains bacteria-fighting enzymes.
These and other foods can help fortify your smile.
Contact Our Houston Dental Practice Today
Would you like to learn more about how what you eat affects your smile? Are you due for your next preventive care appointment? Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment with Dr. Flanagan.