Batman vs. The Joker. Harry Potter vs. Lord Voldemort. Your dentist vs. the candy industry.
When we talk about the most famous nemeses of all time, it’s probably expected that your dentist loathes candy. The sugary stuff allows for bacteria to build up in your mouth, which can lead to decay and gum disease. But what might surprise you is that when it comes to oral health, there are some foods and drinks that dentists deem even more problematic than what’s inside a trick-or-treat bucket.
“The high acid breaks down your enamel and then the high sugar content increases cavities on that weakened enamel,” she says. “Even diet sodas can do damage because they are still acidic.”
Unfortunately, once your enamel has deteriorated, it can’t grow back, says Dr. Kevin Sands, D.D.S., a Board Certified Cosmetic Dentist in Beverly Hills. So the stakes are high when it comes to consuming carbonated beverages and acidic foods.
Here are 13 more foods and drinks that dentists say are horrible for your teeth.
Popcorn Can Cause Significant Dental Problems
Teeth can break when you inadvertently bite on an unpopped kernel, says Dr. Kenneth Magid, D.D.S., founder of Advanced Dentistry of Westchester in New York. Plus, he says the husks of corn are the “perfect concave shape to lodge between the tooth and the gums and work its way underneath,” which can lead to problems like bone loss, inflammation, and infection. Reminder: Floss after movie night!
Kombucha’s Acidity Is Terrible for Teeth
Often billed as a healthy drink, kombucha is problematic for your oral health. The acidity level of the fermented tea falls between 2.5 to 3.5, Magid says, and these kinds of highly acidic drinks can strip your enamel, which is the strong outer protective surface on your teeth.
“Counterintuitively, the worst thing you can do after indulging in these beverages is to brush your teeth,” Magid says. That’s because the acid softens the enamel and then the toothbrush wears away at the soft structure.
It’s best to wait an hour or so after drinking something acidic before you brush your teeth because your saliva is busy washing away the acid, and the enamel hardens again, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Lollipops and Hard Candies Are Some of the Worst Candies
Certain sweets such as lollipops and hard candies are even worse than other treats as they stay in your mouth for quite a while, making it harder for your saliva to wash away the sugar, Sands says.
Wine (Especially Red) Softens Your Enamel
Both red and white wine contain erosive acid which softens your enamel and leaves your teeth vulnerable to decay, Sands says.
“Red wine also contains tannins which can dry out your mouth and stain your teeth,” he explains.
Cocktails with Sugary Sodas or Energy Drinks Cause the Most Damage to Your Teeth
“Many cocktails use sugary mixers that can coat your teeth's surface, leading to tooth decay over time,” Sands says. Examples include Jack and Coke or vodka and Red Bull, but really any similar combination of sugary drinks and booze is bad news, he says.
Drink Citrus Juices Through A Straw
If you eat or drink a lot of citrus like oranges, grapefruit, limes and lemons, beware that the acid can wear away at the enamel on your teeth, making them vulnerable to bacteria and cavities, Sands says.
“When drinking juices, using straw will help some of the acid bypass your teeth,” he says.
Drink Water in Between Sips of Coffee
Because enamel is porous, dark-colored foods and drinks such as coffee and tea can cause your teeth to stain.
“Just like the inside of your coffee mug—coffee does the same thing to your teeth,” he says.
“Water has the power to wash the acids out of the mouth,” he says. “Alternating sips of water with sips of coffee can cut down on staining. Squishing water around the mouth is also helpful.”
Brushing your teeth is also a good idea, but wait about 60 minutes after you’re done with your coffee before you brush, he says.
Some other things to help you prevent staining your teeth include adding milk to your coffee to dilute the color, drinking through a straw, or drinking water between sips of coffee, Sands says.
Cough Drops Bathe Your Mouth in Sugar
Technically not a part of the food pyramid, things like cough drops and mints saturate your teeth with sugar because you keep them in your mouth for long periods of time, Gretzula says.
Milk Duds Stick To Your Teeth
Sticky candies like Milk Duds are especially bad because, in addition to the sugar, they tend to stick and stay on your tooth, becoming a reliable food source for the bacteria in your mouth, says Santa Clarita, California dentist Dr. Sean Kutlay, D.D.S. If you eat milk dudes, brush and floss afterwards, he suggests.
Taffy Can Pull Off Crowns
Gummy candies like caramels, Tootsie rolls, taffy are not only high in sugary but they’re super-stick and can pull off crowns and leave a lot of sugar stuck to your teeth, says Dr. Irina Kessler, D.D.S., partner of New York Family Dental Arts in New York City.
Ice Can Crack Teeth
Crunching on ice might bring relief on a hot day. But be cautious, says Kessler: Those ice cubes can break your teeth, especially if you have fillings and craze lines, which are superficial vertical lines on your teeth that become more prominent when you age. Hard candy, she says, can also break brittle teeth.
Goldfish Crackers Are a Common Cavity Culprit
Goldfish crackers are a popular snack for young kids. But, Dr. Jonelle Anamelechi, a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist and owner of Children's Choice Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics in the Washington, D.C. area, explains that carbs can turn into sugars, and when paired with bacteria in the mouth can cause cavities. The leftovers from the crackers can get stuck in between where the gums and tooth meet, in the grooves of the teeth and in between them, which makes it really hard to reach with a toothbrush.
Gummy Vitamins Get Stuck in Between Teeth
A rule of thumb: “Anything that sticks can stay,” says Anamelechi. If your gummy vitamins or fruit snacks are left for long periods of time, the sugars can bury themselves and cause cavities, she says. “The stickiness also loves other food as company so it helps other foods stick to the tooth also,” Anamelechi says. Consider that a PSA to floss!
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