If you’re like most Americans who enjoy a morning cup of coffee or like to chew gum after a meal to freshen your breath, it would be hard to imagine living without some of your favorite food and drinks. Many people wonder how their nutritional choices affect their physical health, but seldom wonder what it’s doing to their oral health. Find out how favorite food and drinks affect teeth:
Besides the “coffee breath” we all dread after our morning (or afternoon) cup of joe, coffee can stain teeth, which creates a sticky environment that plaque loves to build on. If you can’t take it black and need a little cream to lighten it up or a packet of sugar to make it sweeter, this unfortunately does not help. Adding sugar allows for more plaque build-up. If you’re like most people who can’t live without coffee, some ways to avoid staining and plaque include rinsing your mouth with water, brushing your teeth and avoiding drinking it all day.
A nice glass of orange juice is refreshing in the morning and a great source of Vitamin C. Even a squeeze of lemon or lime in your water adds a nice taste, but can expose your teeth to the acid these fruits contain. Citrus foods have a lot of acidity that can erode the enamel on your teeth, causing decay over time. The secret to avoiding tooth enamel erosion is drinking a glass of water or brushing your teeth after you consume foods with high acidity. If you choose to brush, wait at least 30 minutes after consumption. Since the acid has softened the enamel, brushing right away doesn’t allow your saliva enough time to neutralize the pH and re-strengthen your tooth, risking brushing away tooth structure.
A common misconception is that sugary foods are the only causes of cavities or other teeth damage. Unfortunately, even salty food can take a toll on our teeth. Chips are a great indulgence and the salty taste is sometimes irresistible. However, the starch that is in chips love to find nooks and crannies in your teeth, causing the particles to get trapped. Allowing the starch to sit in your teeth is another great environment for plaque build-up. A simple solution to avoid this trap: floss!
We’ve all heard the saying: “Drink all day, get decay.” We know that soda and sports drinks have a lot of sugar, which allows for bacteria to sit on our teeth, causing cavities, but how harmful is it? The answer is very. Since soda is both acidic and sugary, the bacteria from plaque and acid attack the tooth enamel, promoting tooth decay. If you cannot live without soda, drink a glass of water with each can to prevent as much damage as possible.
When sugar-free, chewing gum has a lot of benefits for your mouth health! Popping in a piece after finishing a meal is great for cleaning the excess debris and neutralizing the acids from the plaque on your teeth. It also promotes saliva flow which also neutralizes acids and washes away food debris. While sugar-free gum has its benefits to preventing problems with your teeth, it should not be a substitute for brushing and flossing twice a day.
Candy & Sticky Foods
Besides the obvious fact that it has a lot of sugar, many of our favorite food, such as gummies, dried fruit and candy, are very sticky, causing it to stick on our teeth very easily. One major downside is that our saliva is not strong enough to get rid of the excess food particles that sticky foods leave behind. The extra time on our teeth allows for more plaque build-up and gradual tooth decay, if consumed often. After eating your sweet treat, drink and rinse your mouth with a glass of water and brush/floss it away.
We are already warned about consuming alcohol in moderation, but we don’t think about how it affects our teeth. Besides the sugary alcoholic drinks that promote plaque build-up and cavities, alcohol causes dehydration and a dry mouth. What does this have to do with our teeth? When saliva flow is restricted over time, this does not allow for its self-cleaning capabilities, which can lead to tooth decay. Additionally, decreased saliva flow can increase the chance of developing gum disease. To help prevent these problems, don’t forget to ask for a glass of water along with your drink order at the bar.