Certain foods can damage teeth and increase the risk of oral health problems. Damage occurs for a variety of reasons, including enamel loss and physical trauma, and the effects can be costly to repair. Take a look at five teeth-damaging foods to limit or avoid altogether in your diet.
Foods that are high in sugar, either natural or refined, can damage teeth by causing or worsening tooth decay. By feeding bad oral bacteria, sugar fuels production of acids that wear down enamel, causing cavities where food particles collect. In fact, the mouth becomes acidic immediately after chewing these foods. Sugary foods also make teeth sticky, making it easier for bacteria to colonize. This damage is compounded by foods that are both sugary and acidic, such as soda and certain candies. According to Dr. Tor Gotun of Austin Smile Creations, “sticky, chewy candies can cause some of the worst tooth decay…it is best to avoid candies such as jelly beans, taffy, and caramels.”
Fruit can cause tooth damage due to acidity and/or high natural sugar content. Citrus fruits may be the worst fruits for teeth due to their high levels of citric acid, which dissolves enamel. However, other fruits may also contain enough acid to harm teeth, especially when consumed in large amounts. Pineapples and certain varieties of apples can cause this problem. Sweet or starchy fruits, such as bananas, dates and figs, contain plenty of sugar that will drive decay.
Excessively hard foods can fracture or break teeth if they are chewed. Pork cracklings and hard candies are two examples of foods in this category. Hard foods present the biggest hazard to people whose teeth are brittle due to age, malnutrition, or decay. Resulting cracks may not always be visible after chewing hard foods, but microscopic fractures can develop and predispose teeth to major breakage later.
Pickled or Fermented Foods
Foods that are pickled or fermented are highly acidic and can break down tooth enamel. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, have small amounts of lactic acid while vinegar-pickled foods contain small amounts of acetic acid. However, fermented foods that are unpasteurized are also rich in lactobacillus bacteria, which can be beneficial in the gut but contribute to decay in the mouth. Regular consumption of unpasteurized fermented foods can maintain a thriving colony of enamel-eating bacteria.
Foods High in Phytic Acid
Legumes, whole grains, nuts and coffee have high levels of phytic acid, which binds to minerals and can cause tooth damage when eaten heavily over time. When minerals such as calcium and magnesium become bound to phytic acid, they are no longer available for repairing teeth during routine wear caused by normal chewing and acidic foods. Phytic acid may be less likely to cause serious problems in people who get plenty of minerals and vitamin D, which raises available calcium, but it opens the door to more rapid loss of enamel and development of decay. In some people, lack of repair may occur. However, some people may develop serious tooth decay and other problems while eating a diet high in phytic acid.
The damage caused by the foods above can’t always be solved with regular brushing and flossing. Although sugar is best washed away as soon as possible, brushing after eating acidic foods can actually increase damage. When breakage occurs, a dentist should be seen right away to hopefully save the involved teeth. By limiting or avoiding damage caused by the foods above, people are more likely to have healthier teeth, and more of them, throughout life.
Austin Smile Creations is a dental office in Austin, TX. For more information, follow Austin Smile Creations on Facebook,