When we eat and drink we are not only feeding ourselves, but also the bacteria found in the soft sticky layer of plaque on our teeth. If this plaque is not removed regularly and properly, this bacteria can feast away on the sugars found in our food, making acids that can dissolve tooth enamel and cause dental cavities. Also, as bacteria breakdown food particles in the mouth, odorous gases can be released resulting in unpleasant breath.
Whilst you know that removing plaque with daily tooth brushing and flossing is recommended, there are also some foods and drinks that can play havoc with the health of your teeth and gums. Here are some of the worst culprits:
This may seem like an obvious one, but contrary to what your mum told you, sugar does not directly rot your teeth; it is the acid that is produced when you eat sugar and carbohydrates that can. Sweets containing refined sugar that linger in the mouth such as hard boiled sweets and lollipops give bacteria the longest time to produce harmful acids. Chewy, sticky sweets like toffees that can get stuck on or between the teeth cause cavity-causing bacteria to thrive. Yet, a lot of ‘sour’ sweet selections that are flavoured with citric acid can deliver an extra dose of erosive acids on top of those produced naturally in the mouth. Of course, it is difficult to avoid all sweet foods but if you want a treat, select chocolate confectionary, which can be eaten and washed away relatively quickly.
Fizzy drinks are often high in sugar and can easily flow into all the crevices in and between the teeth helping to nourish bacteria and produce acid attacks. Even sugar-free or artificially sweetened versions contain citric and phosphoric acid, which have the potential to erode tooth enamel. Sports drinks too, which some people take for a boost of energy, are very sugary and acidic and exhibit the highest risk of tooth wear.[i] If you can’t live without a fizzy drink, the best thing to do is to use a straw to limit the time it is in contact with the teeth and drink it with a meal so that food and saliva can help to neutralise the acids.
Ok, so you may not consume that much pure vinegar on a daily basis, however, you might eat salad dressing, sauces, pickles and some highly flavoured or processed foods, such as baked beans, which contain spirit vinegar. Just keep an eye out for foods with that sharp, sour flavour, which often comes from acids provided by vinegar. Furthermore, as well as the acids produced naturally by bacteria in the mouth, these foods represent further hazards for tooth enamel and it’s always best to drink plenty of water after eating them to flush away harmful acids.
Yes, they may be good sources of essential nutrients such as vitamin C, yet citrus fruit and juices, particularly lemon and grapefruit are also highly acidic which can damage, erode and decay your teeth.[ii] Oranges are the least acidic in this group but it is wise to remember that other fruits such as tomatoes can be high in acid too. Canned and dried fruit as well as fruit drinks like smoothies
also contain a lot of natural or sometimes added sugar. If you like to eat or drink this fruity fare, make sure that you don’t prolong the time that your teeth are exposed to acids by eating or drinking them as part of a meal or in one sitting, followed by plenty of water.
As the first part of the digestion process, carbohydrates are broken down in the mouth by enzymes in saliva which turn starch into sugar, creating acids as a by product. As white bread is chewed it is transformed into a gooey substance that can adhere or get trapped on the teeth providing a feast for acid-producing bacteria. Try choosing whole grain, high fibre breads instead.
Crackers and snacks
Although crackers don’t normally contain sugar or acid, refined carbohydrates that quickly breakdown into sugar is the culprit again. Crackers as well as food like potato crisps are starchy and although they are tasty, they become mushy when chewed and can get stuck on and around the teeth.
Biscuits and Cakes
Biscuits and cakes contain a lot of sugar as well as refined carbohydrates, giving your teeth a double whammy of starchy, sweet substances to feed bacteria and cause an acid attack. Try swapping these foods for fruit or another healthier snack.
Tea and coffee
Drinks like coffee and black tea contain tannic acid, which can stain your teeth and make the mouth feel sticky. Also, research confirms that drinking black tea can cause enamel erosion and the erosive effects are five times more severe in the case of some herbal or fruit teas.[iii] Tannin and caffeine can also reduce saliva production, increase likelihood of dry mouth and cause oral health problems and unpleasant smelling breath. Coffee also has a strong odour and when other compounds like milk or cream are added the smell can become more evident on the breath. However, when you do add milk to your daily cuppa it can reduce their staining capabilities.
Highly pigmented foods
If you think about red wine, berries, beetroot, curry, pasta sauce or indeed anything that would ruin a white tablecloth, these are the foods that can easily stain the teeth. You may also be surprised to learn that white wine is more acidic than red wine and can cause more discolouration and damage to the teeth.[iv]
There are of course, many more foods that can chip, damage or stain the teeth and some are certainly the cause of odorous breath. However, moderation is the key and by drinking plenty of fluoridated water and implementing a good oral health routine incorporating CB12 oral health products you can ensure that your mouth remains in tip top condition.