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dr dennis dunne kids eating apples

10 Foods You Didn’t Know Were Damaging Your Teeth

Everybody knows that candy and other sugary foods damage teeth, but how about apples?

You’ve heard time and again that brushing & flossing is the best way to keep your teeth healthy. But some foods can cause enough damage to warrant extra cleanings. There are two main elements of food that damage your pearly whites: sugar and acid.

Sugars, especially sucrose (table sugar), feed the millions of bacteria already in your mouth. Bacteria feast on your plaque buildup and produce lactic acid, which erodes your tooth enamel. Sucrose is the worst form of sugar because it adheres to teeth very strongly making it (and the bacteria) difficult to remove even when brushing. (This is why brushing for two minutes is the gold standard. Less time spent might not be sufficient to rid your teeth of all the sugar and bacteria.)

Acids naturally occur in many foods, including fruit. In these cases, bacteria aren’t necessary to produce acid and cause tooth decay. Instead, acidic foods eat away at your enamel and break down your teeth directly. The good news is that generally you can wash away natural acids by drinking water. Ironically however, brushing too soon after consuming acidic foods or beverages can actually cause more damage. Since teeth are porous, brushing softens them and makes them more susceptible to acid. After eating acidic foods, you should wait at least 30 minutes before brushing.

One more thing; in addition to the sugar and acid in foods, you should consider the length of time food is left on your teeth (or stuck between them). The more time bacteria have to produce acids, the more damage will be done.

  1. Apples & oranges
    These fruits are high in acid, are surprisingly hard on your enamel. While a daily apple may keep the doctor away, the acid might keep your dentist on speed dial. Eating apples is fine, just be sure to rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash shortly after.
  2. Cough drops
    Like hard candies, cough drops are especially harmful because we hold them in our mouths for extended periods of time. Cough drops are often made with sugar, so opt for the sugar-free brand if available.
  3. Pickled vegetables
    Pickles are made with vinegar, which is acidic, and often sugar as well. While the vegetables are healthy, the brine is can damage your teeth. Drinking water with your meal helps wash away acids and sugar, but remember to brush an hour later.
  4. Bread
    Many breads contain sugar—especially processed white breads. It’s best to check the labels for any added sweeteners that will breed mouth bacteria. Bread is also sticky and gets between and behind your teeth.
  5. Popcorn
    Popcorn is notorious for getting stuck in your teeth, and the areas between your teeth will cultivate more bacteria for that reason. It’s okay to treat yourself to a bag of popcorn as long as you rinse with water and remember to floss and brush after.
  6. Nut butters
    Sticky and often made with sugar, nut butter not only feeds bacteria but makes it easier for them to adhere to teeth. Look for natural nut butters with no added sugars to lessen the problem.
  7. Fruit spreads
    Even though fruit spreads can be lower in sugar content than jelly or jam, it contains natural sugars that encourage plaque and bacteria if not washed away soon.
  8. Meat
    Meat tends to get stuck between your teeth, and some deli meats even contain sugar as a preservative. While the amount of sugar may not be very high, any food that sits between your teeth can promote tooth decay. Use a toothpick to remove the larger pieces and chew some sugar-less gum after eating if you can’t brush right away.
  9. Diet soda
    Just because it doesn’t have sugar doesn’t mean your teeth are safe. The acidity of diet sodas is still extremely high, making it one of the worst products for your teeth.
  10. Salad dressing
    Salad dressings use vinegar and sugar for flavor. Salads should be a staple in anyone’s diet, but be careful of the dressings that can harm your smile.
    Be sure to care for your (and your child’s) teeth soon after eating the foods on this list – or any foods high in sugar and acid. Drinking water with your meal and rinsing with it afterwards, chewing sugar-less gum, rinsing with mouthwash, using a toothpick or flossing and brushing with toothpaste are all good ways to reduce the risk of damage.


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